A particular favourite of crimeworm’s, this series is – I’m making that clear from the off! Some thoughts on why…
It’s set in Glasgow, erstwhile home of myself for 18 years and my partner’s for the first 38 of his. I was lucky enough to catch the first book in the series, loved it, and have waited avidly for each one to come out since then. There’s so much that’s familiar about the books – I think we all enjoy reading about a setting we know and love. Plus the level of accuracy is really high – names of pubs, shops and restaurants in the mid ’70s are all spot on, according to older friends and family.
Rather like Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain (a book I finally read this week – review to come), Alan Parks had a highly successful first career (his in the music industry in London, working for London Records; Douglas Stuart worked for some big names in fashion in the US). This is a second act, career-wise, and, like Stuart, it looks like being even more successful than his first career. I’ve read him say in interviews that his work, much of which involved making videos for well-known bands, has helped in his writing, as it made him highly observant and detail-orientated. His habit of walking around Glasgow, soaking in the city, also helps – something I used to love to do, too. (And in Glasgow, people love a gab!) I’d definitely agree with it – he knows how to portray the city so accurately in both its ugliness and beauty. And in this one, he’s definitely got his work cut out for him – it’s a busy book…
What’s happening in May 1974 then?
Well, we have more horrendous crimes – each month gets worse! And McCoy’s in no fit state to be investigating anything, in his boss’s Murray’s opinion, having been not long discharged from hospital with his stomach ulcer. However, when an arson attack on Dolly’s Hairdressing Salon in Royston leaves three women and two children, the city is in uproar. With three arrested lads appearing at the High Court amidst ugly crowd scenes and confusion, the van carrying them is ramraided and they are kidnapped. (This reminded me a little of a real-life incident many years ago when a police wagon carrying IRA prisoners is held-up as it’s about to turn into Duke Street to the old prison there, and the prisoners were sprung – they used to say you could still see the bulletholes in the wall of the old prison but I never had a chance to check.) Murray reluctantly lets McCoy investigate on the quiet (or on the qt, as they say in Glasgow.) Wattie has his hands full attempting to investigate the dead body of an unidentified girl in Sighthill Cemetery, but he’s slowly gaining confidence and coming into his own, out from under McCoy’s shadow. If that’s not enough to be going on with, there’s the apparent suicide of Alistair “Dirty Ally” Drummond, a scud mag salesman, who jumps from the top of a men’s hostel – apparently of his own volition, and this investigation lands in McCoy’s lap – he may still have ulcer problems (and no bloody wonder, eh?) but it’s all hands on deck. If that weren’t enough to be going on with, it looks like there’s shaping up to be a gang war between two of the city’s leading gangsters – and nope, for once Stevie Cooper is not one of them!
Phew! All hand on deck indeed!
Oh, that’s not all…one of the kidnapped lads allegedly responsible for the arson attack is found dead, horribly tortured and with a note saying, “One down, two to go.” Given that they were under the care of the police at the time, it’s a race against time to discover where the author two are…
Also, we find out more about McCoy’s background when a face from his distant past makes an appearance. And naturally Stevie Cooper – McCoy’s boyhood protector – is on hand to help out when help from the seedier side of the city is needed.
Let’s hope Harry’s got plenty of Pepto Bismol in his drawer…
How did this rate against the rest of the series?
Parks is getting more and more confident at dealing with multiple storylines, and it’s hugely enjoyable getting to know the characters better. The banter is, as ever in Glasgow, on the “slagging each other off for amusement” side, and is as good as it’s been since the first book. Rarely have I seen a series get so good so quickly. The biggest downside? Waiting until next June for the next book!
Rebus and Rankin may have Edinburgh long under-hand, but head 50 miles west and it’s starting to look like Parks and McCoy’s territory…not that I’m looking to start a book-related gangland war, or anything…;))
An early contender for one of the books of the year (not to mention the McIlvanney Prize…)
With thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on this blog tour, hosted by Random Things TTours, and to Canongate Books for the lovely ARC. This is my opinion and is an unbiased review.
The first five books of the series, and our author Alan Parks
Follow all the other great bloggers on the blog tour of this fantastic piece of Tartan Noir
BLURB: Glasgow is a city in mourning. An arson attack on a hairdresser’s has left five dead. Tempers are frayed and sentiments running high.
When three youths are charged the city goes wild. A crowd gathers outside the courthouse but as the police drive the young men to prison, the van is rammed by a truck, and the men are grabbed and bundled into a car. The next day, the body of one of them is dumped in the city centre. A note has been sent to the newspaper: one down, two to go.
Detective Harry McCoy has twenty-four hours to find the kidnapped boys before they all turn up dead, and it is going to mean taking down some of Glasgow’s most powerful people to do it . . .