Maxine Welsh works the streets of Leith: a prostitute whose addiction and increasing debt leave her vulnerable in the extreme.
Her only ally is her friend, Connie, until one Christmas evening theyâ€™re invited to the inner sanctum of local pub landlord, Tom Logan. Big Tam, as heâ€™s known, has his own problems, and in Maxine he sees something of a kindred spirit.
But Maxine is at the mercy of the criminal underworld in a way that even Big Tam might find it hard to challenge, and when the crisis does come, Maxine flees Edinburgh. Life is soon on the up â€“ but Maxineâ€™s home city never stops calling. On her cautious return, there are a new set of challenges to overcome, and certain police officers arenâ€™t the support she might have hoped.
Peter Ritchie evokes a graphic, uneasy picture of the underbelly of Leith, a part of Edinburgh that might have been cleaned up on the surface but remains murky and dangerous in its depths. Maxine and Connie are abused women, pure and simple, yet their resilience and strength keeps them going in situations that would make most of us crumble.
There is violence and horror, but there are also moments of true friendship and tenderness â€“ and no lack of understated humour. Maxineâ€™s Story is a crime novel at its core, but itâ€™s also a story of Maxineâ€™s journey to redemption and ultimately, the triumph of good over evil â€“ for now, at least.
Well-plotted and equally well-written, the author does a very good job of getting under the skin of his characters, female and male. It would be all too easy to stereotype Maxine (and Connie), but instead, they are respected and fully developed characters throughout.
Maxineâ€™s Story is a revised and significantly extended edition of a novella of the same title, first published by the author in 2015. Itâ€™s a standalone novel incorporating some of the characters of Ritchieâ€™s Detective Grace Macallan series.
Available from Amazon UK as a hard copy and eBook.