“With each MacNeice book, Scott Thornley takes the reader deeper into the forest of the human soul. These are, yes, detective stories, but they are also novels about a detective. For MacNeice, nearly every action undertaken in pursuit of perpetrators of horrible murders opens up vistas: of his psyche; of his love for his late wife with whom he periodically communicates; of sentient nature, dogs, birds, actual forests; and of the explicable and inexplicable in the always-slightly-glimpsed souls of his colleagues and of each criminal, down to every minor character whether a caring nurse or a gangster’s stooge.
In this, Thornley’s writing is virtuoso, as it also is in his descriptions of modern technology, forensics, and the crimes themselves which are described with such hyper-realism that they seem almost dreamlike. Would that they were. These horrors are what the human mind is capable of devising and, sometimes, of doing. Thornley uses poetry well – ‘well’ means near-invisibly – to handle soul-unknowables. One killer says, ‘Shuffle the letters of veil and you have evil.’
The motor of detective fiction is cause-and-effect. Thornley honours that in his intricate puzzle of a plot, then goes on to depict, character by character, cause-and-effect as the least of it. That is the mark of memorable literature. Middlemen is literature.”
Richard W. Halperin,
Paris, 4 July 2023