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Skinner's Festival    by Quintin Jardine order for
Skinner's Festival
by Quintin Jardine
Order:  USA  Can
Headline, 1994 (1994)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's always a thrill to find an episode in a favorite series that I somehow missed at the time of publication - Skinner's Festival is such a book. Quintin Jardine's Skinner reminds me somewhat of Ian Rankin's Rebus, though I've always prefered the latter's more flawed character. Edinburgh's Assistant Chief Constable Robert 'Bob' Skinner is almost too good to be true, but there is a darkness at his core that he fears unleashing.

As this story opens, Skinner is married to Dr. Sarah Grace, and they're enjoying Edinburgh's famous annual International Festival together when it's interrupted by an explosion. As security advisor to Scotland's Secretary of State, Alan Ballantyne, Skinner is responsible for counter-terrorism and immediately sets up a task force to protect Festival events and track down the perpetrators. He's especially concerned as his daughter Alex is starring in a festival play. Ballantyne receives letters from 'Fighters for an Independent Scotland' threatening more deaths unless Scotland's birthright is restored, and indeed there is further, steadily escalating violence.

Ballantyne turns out to be the typical sleazy politician, and there is enormous pressure on Skinner from press and public. Various trails lead to international terrorism, mercenaries, a Scots MP, and a mysterious Mr. Black. It becomes a race against time, as Skinner follows his intuition, 'niggling and worrying ... like a dog at a bone'. But then Jardine throws a major spanner in the works. It becomes very personal for his protagonist - and when those close to him are at risk, Skinner's ruthlessness quickly surfaces. Skinner's Festival is one of the stronger entries in an entertaining series.

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