Claire MacLeary

Contraband, £8.99

Introduced in MacLeary’s debut, Cross Purpose, the Aberdeen-based two-woman detective agency of Maggie Laird and Wilma Harcus are now on their fourth book, and Maggie is discovering that money troubles are the hardest case to crack. Mired in debt, she’s picking up whatever work she can, including tracking down missing cats, while considering several options, such as selling her house or slimming down the agency by sacking Wilma. The police, meanwhile, are dealing with the suspicious death of high-flying PR figure Annabel Imray, an investigation in which Laird & Harcus will inevitably become entangled. A book that will, as likely as not, inspire new readers to order the previous three, Payback never sticks in one place long enough to get bogged down, rolling along with energy and momentum. The aspirational Maggie and the more rough-and-ready Wilma, next-door neighbours as well as colleagues, are engaging and relatable central characters who make a refreshing contrast to the usual private investigators.


On The Trail Of Patrick Geddes

Walter Stephen

Luath Press, £8.99

As former chairman of the Sir Patrick Geddes Memorial Trust, Walter Stephen is an authority on the multi-disciplinarian who was “a vigorous institution rather than a man” to some, “a failed sociologist” to others, a town planner, botanist and patron of the arts. Considering his many accomplishments, this slim volume is a concise biography and introduction to his philosophy and working methods, central to which was tailoring projects to the needs of their inhabitants and encouraging local communities to make them a reality. It also, as the title implies, suggests historic walks around Perth and Edinburgh for those interested in his legacy. Stephen argues convincingly that Geddes was ahead of his time, his ideas chiming with the “Small is Beautiful” and “Think Global, Act Local” ethics that would take root decades after his death, and he still comes across as a provocative thinker, with his “stunningly revolutionary” proposals for a post-WWI world and plans to renovate 50 Indian cities.


How To Predict Everything

William Poundstone

Oneworld, £9.99

A theorem originally devised in the 18th Century by Thomas Bayes, a minister from Tunbridge Wells, has been enjoying a revival in recent years thanks to the likes of astrophysicist J. Richard Gott III, who used it to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall with surprising accuracy. Based on the premise that one is observing an event from a random point in its duration, it’s been used to estimate the lengths of governments, theatre runs and even marriages, and is a controversial calculation that raises passions both for and against – not surprisingly, since it gives the human race between 20 and 760 years of continued existence. Poundstone examines the “doomsday argument” from every angle in a procession of thought experiments where mathematics meets philosophy, in a way that the layperson can, for the most part, keep up with, before applying it to Fermi’s Paradox.