Much was made of Karen Campbell's background when her initial run of Glasgow-based police novels was published in quick succession a few years ago.

Campbell was the daughter of cops, the wife of a cop, had been a beat cop herself for five years with Strathclyde Police. This undoubtedly gave those four books no end of procedural verisimilitude, and probably accounted for their general aversion to crime-thriller conventions - the lead characters were plausibly ordinary people in a knackering job, the crimes themselves as messy and prosaic as only real life can be.

Not every ex-cop could write like this, of course, and not every novelist has Campbell's powers of observation or forensic sense of empathy. The reader was tempted to imagine her career in reverse, and picture her bringing those authorial skills to patrol work, filling her officer's notebook with vivid descriptions of the city's mankiest tenements and the grim pathologies of violence, addiction, neglect.

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Presumably she could have gone on to write 20 books around Sergeant Anna Cameron. Instead she shifted out of genre altogether with This Is Where I Am, a novel about a Somali asylum seeker in Glasgow that felt current and urgent without making a cause or a sermon of its subject. With Rise, Campbell moves on again.

This sixth novel is her first to escape the city limits, and it does so pretty literally, as a desperate young woman catches the next bus out of town, pursued by a shirtless headcase with a baseball bat. Coming to a sudden stop in a small Argyll village surrounded by ancient standing stones - an imaginary place named Kilmacarra, apparently inspired by Kilmartin - she is almost immediately witness to a hit-and-run, and drawn into the riven household of a lapsed cleric turned SNP councillor and his wife, an aspiring writer.

There's a lot of plot in motion here, as Justine hides out from her former pimp Charlie Boy with fistfuls of his stolen cash, while the ex-pastor, Michael, contends with a badly injured son, a disintegrating marriage and an electorate divided over a major local windfarm contract, not to mention persistent visions of an impish, taunting ghost who might be a satanic emissary or a product of repressed rage. But save for a few grinding contrivances, most of these story beats seem to arise from social, psychological, even geological realities.

Campbell has a sensitive ear for Scottish dialect and dialogue, all the telling nuances of accent. Impoverished and brutalised but credibly whip-smart, Justine presents herself as a nursery nurse to Michael's fussy and unhappy wife Hannah with a little cynical mimicry: "If you run your words together, you can make them glide, and if you lift the inflection on them with a little flick tail it makes you slightly posh."

The cagey domestic tension between these two women rings absolutely true, and Justine's eye-rolling impatience with middle-class problems and politics never sounds less than authentic. "Do you have a single clue, Michael? Of the s*** that happens to some folk, for no reason at all?" In several places, the talk turns explicitly to the Scottish independence referendum, pinning the setting to mid-2014 and echoing arguments you may have had yourself last summer. Justine is a proud, contemptuous, lifelong non-voter, who wants to shout across the glens that she doesn't care about the outcome.

But the silence of the glens is resounding, and the hills and cairns cast long shadows over these conversations as a team of historians dig out pre-Christian burial chambers above the village. Broadly speaking, this is a story of independence - one woman's struggle towards it set against a nationwide attempt to define it. As a living testament to hope over experience, our heroine finds herself becoming vulnerable to certain stirrings. "You not think it's good, but?" she asks her nascent love interest, a local farmer inclined to vote No. "To be alive at the start of something new? When history's cresting?"

Campbell is too subtle a writer to say Yes, though. The book's breadth of perspective is so diffuse that it's sometimes hard to hear her authorial voice at all, as the narrative passes around between Justine, Michael, Hannah and Charlie Boy - a comparatively uncomplicated agent of threat brought ferociously to life in the manner of Irvine Welsh. The latter's climactic appearance in the village splits the difference between the dramatically inevitable and generically mechanical. But all through the novel there's an air of ambivalence that seems to emanate right out of the earth. What does Scotland even mean in terms of geological time?

What does the landscape care about borders and wind turbines? What does independence matter to the soil or the bones beneath it? Six months after the referendum we're already seeing the second draft of recent history emerge into literature, if that's the word for books like Alex Salmond's newly published post-electoral audit of credit and blame. Taking the cultural longview, a novel like Campbell's allows for the faith that fiction will record our moment with a little more latitude for surprise and revelation.

Karen Campbell is at Aye Write! on April 23