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Whilst those emerging from 100-plus days of lockdown in Greater Sydney might be tempted to toss about the phrase “winter of discontent”, this gritty series opener reminds us there have been many unsettled seasons of instability before. McDermid, a giant of crime writing, chose the Scottish lockdown of 2020 to begin a new series, with young and hungry journalist Allie Burns as its heroine. In the opening pages, McDermid succinctly encapsulates the chill of what was then the coldest weather in Scotland in more than a decade, as industrial action over better pay agreements collided with mass transport delays caused by severe storms and wild weather events, and divisive political rhetoric in the shadow of an upcoming election and debate over Scottish independence. McDermid’s literary career began as a reporter in Glasgow, so the casual and abject sexism confronting Allie at this early stage of her career rings horrendously true.

Allie is trying to make a splash – literally, in tabloid terms – in her career and not be relegated to reporting on new arrivals at the zoo or miracle babies delivered on the train. Teaming up with an equally ambitious young male reporter, Danny, opens doors to exposing the underbelly of Scottish crime, but it’s hard to slot seamlessly into undercover roles when covering a man’s world. The persistent bluster, snow flurries and downpours entrench the impediments faced by Danny and Allie in their searches for scoops.

Despite the realism of its societal setting, 1979 requires a stunning suspension of disbelief to sustain momentum and interest in its central plot (an undercover mission to infiltrate the IRA and expose those looking to introduce a similar rein of fear to Scotland). Despite the pains taken to demonstrate Allie and Danny’s struggles to be accepted by their peers, their intrepid mission comes together so easily, its ending frustratingly predictable.