Professor Alexander Anstruther, aged 90, is found dead in his Edinburgh mansion under suspicious circumstances. He is a bachelor with no siblings hence the ‘End of the Line’ title. Once a leading haematologist, he has been implicated in the public enquiry regarding the HIV contaminated blood given to haemophiliac patients back in the 70s and 80s; many of whom died as a result.
The book is broken down into different sections each told in first person narrative. The opening and closing sections are told by Anthony Sparrow, a bibliophile, who is commissioned to clear the house which leads to the discovery of the diary kept by the late Professor.
The Professor’s diaries give an interesting insight into both the character of the doctor and the difficult situations encountered during his life. He writes about his failing health and his reluctant acceptance of the daily help he requires and the women who provide it. He is preparing to give evidence in the forthcoming trial and is out of his mind with worry regarding the outcome after discovering doctors in France were jailed for their part in the scandal.
The novel then moves to excerpts from the journal of the person accused of his murder and gives an obviously quite different perspective on the events leading up to, and following, the death of the Professor. Author, Gillian Galbraith, was formerly an advocate specialising in medical negligence cases and was involved in drafting the final report for the Scottish public enquiry into blood contamination that ran from 2008-2015 and so is well qualified to describe the specific details.
The End of the Line is a well-crafted ‘whodunnit’. The reader’s sympathy swings back and forth between the different characters as their various personalities slowly come to light but although the background is very real the plot itself is a trifle contrived with too many coincidences. However, that doesn’t stop the desire to discover more about Anthony Sparrow and all the amazing mysteries he could uncover as he goes about his house clearing business.