Author of the Month

Name: Craig Robertson

First Novel: Random

Most Recent Book: The Photographer

'...Robertson deserves every award available for writing such a powerful book. '

A dawn raid leads the police to a chilling discovery: a disturbing collection of photographs hidden under the floorboards. DI Rachel Narey is terrified at the potential scale of what they’ve found and of what brutalities it may signal. There is a monster on the streets of Glasgow.

It’s is now a race against time to find the other unknown subjects of the photographer’s lens - before he strike again.

I have been a fan of Craig Robertson since his first novel, ‘Random’. There is a particular murder in that book that has stayed with me ever since. Such is the raw talent of Robertson’s fiction that this latest novel will be haunting my dreams for weeks to come.

‘The Photographer’ is powerful, disturbing, shocking, relentless and possibly the best crime thriller of the year. The subject matter of a brutal rapist is sensitively tackled. The horror faced by the victims, the cold-heartened nature of the perpetrator, the loop holes of the law are all examined with unerring clarity.

I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. It’s a devastating page-turner, a brutal insight into today’s society of internet trolls and blame proportioning. At times it makes for unsettling reading, but this is a subject matter not to shy away from and Robertson deserves every award available for writing such a powerful book.

The main characters of DI Rachel Narey and her journalist husband Tony Winter are a formidable creation. Narey is a gutsy, no-nonsense force of nature and Winter is a terrier once he gets his teeth into a story. However, they’re both incredibly likeable. Throwing retired detective Uncle Danny into the mix is always entertaining and he makes sure sparks fly.

If you’ve yet to discover this series, start now and find out why Craig Robertson is one of Scotland’s best crime writers around.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) This is a very timely and expertly written novel. What research did you do in order to capture the tone of the book?
I started writing this book before the Me Too movement, before Time's Up, before Weinstein. So while the novel seems very timely, this conversation's been coming for a long time. You could see the storm in the distance if you had a mind to look for it. In specific terms of research, I spoke with a Rape Crisis counsellor, I spoke to victims of both rape and abuse, studied changing police approaches to victims and read far more examples of misogynist trolling and social media hate than was good for me.
2) Violence against women in fiction is a hot topic at present. The victims in ‘The Photographer’ are all female. Do you worry about coming under such scrutiny?
Yes and no. Given the subject matter, I was very wary from start to finish and beyond the finish. However I don't fear the scrutiny of all the victims being women, not in this case, because that was the very thing I set out to tackle. I wrote the book to rail against violence against women and girls, and how society reacts that, so I could hardly do so without featuring it. While I understand the motives of those seeking to exclude violence against women from crime novels, I don't think it achieves what it sets out to do. I think we can do more by having the conversation and by articulating problems and possible solutions.
3) Towards the end of the book, a character recounts the horror she went through at the hands of her attacker. How were you able to put yourself so successfully into her position in order to write such a powerful speech?
Well, first of all I hope that I did do it successfully. It inevitably needed some guesswork on my part but I tried to reduce the amount of guessing by talking to women who'd been in that position and those who'd counselled them. Also, there is always a certain amount of 'acting', putting yourself in the shoes of a character, and I forced myself to imagine the mindset of women that I love if they'd had to endure that.
4) As a male writer, was there an added challenge in writing this book over your others?
Yes. I'm tempted to say 'Next question' because it's an absolute yes. But I knew going into this that it would present difficult challenges and that there was a very good chance I could get it wrong. I knew I'd leave myself open to the accusation that as a man, I was writing about something I could never fully understand. Again, I sought to minimise that risk by learning as much as I could, understanding as best as I could.

Once I was finished, I had the book read by two female crime writers - Alexandra Sokoloff (my wife) and Eva Dolan - who have very firm views on the subject matter and who I knew wouldn't hesitate to tell me if I'd messed up. Thankfully, they both gave me a pass.
5) Narey (a detective) and her husband, Winter (a journalist), could easily become conflicted and stereotypical when it comes to crime fiction. Do you work hard to keep them as real as possible?
It is something I worry about and am always conscious of when I start a new book and all the way through it. I'd hate for them to become any crime fiction cliche, yet that risk is always there. The saving grace is, I think, that I know them both well enough to know what they'd do and think in any given situation and that reduces the chance of me letting them slip into some trope that I'd regret.

All my books can be read as standalones but the continuing arc is the development of their relationship. and their lives. It's not always easy to have them both feature in the same storyline as professionals but much easier to have them both emotionally invested in the other's work. I do sometimes think the easiest way round it all would be to kill one of them...
6) How important is police procedure to you? Do you change your story to fit in with procedure or allow fiction to take over for the purposes of entertainment?
It's not hugely important to me but I do try to get it right. For The Photographer, I had the finished book read over by a female Detective Inspector - the same rank as Narey - before it went off to my editor, and I made several changes based on her feedback. However if I had to choose between reality or a situation that moved the plot to where I wanted it to go, I'd choose the latter. There was a pivotal point in this book where the D.I. suggested that a situation wouldn't happen yet the legal advice from lawyer-author pal Steve Cavanagh suggested it would. His advice suited me better, so I went with that!
7) Are you a fan of crime fiction? If so, which three crime novels would you like with you if stranded on a desert island?
It is a running joke in the crime fiction community that I don't read very much - and it's true. Sadly what used to be reading time for me is now all too often writing time. However, I do read a bit more than I let on and it is almost all crime fiction these days. I've recently read the aforementioned Steve Cavanagh's Thirteen and Luca Veste's ‘The Bone Keeper’, and both are annoyingly excellent and out soon
However, if you're asking for all-time favourite crime novels... I'd choose James Elroy's The Black Dahlia for it's visceral heart, William McIlvanney's Laidlaw for it's prose and its punch, and Louise Welsh's The Cutting Room for being beautifully grisly and hypnotically creepy.