BLURB: 2004: The court case had been harrowing. The fifteen jurors sat in silence while the prosecution produced evidence of how a man with obsessive sado-masochistic fantasies had turned into a killer. Fourteen of the jurors were repulsed. One man was secretly enthralled. A new world of possibility had opened up for him.
2014: When an actress is found dead, the ligature marks suggest that she had been involved in extreme sex games. When DIs Wheeler and Ross begin to investigate her death, they uncover not only an industry with varying degrees of regulation but also a sinister private club where some of Glasgow’s elite pay handsomely to indulge their darkest fantasies. Club security is run by Paul Furlan, ex-army veteran and a former adversary of Wheeler. As Wheeler and Ross uncover the secrets and lies surrounding the club, they realise that their investigation is being blocked not just by Furlan but by some of Glasgow’s most influential citizens.
Meanwhile Skye Cooper, Scotland’s latest indie-rock sensation is playing the final gig of his sell-out tour but his dreams of stardom are on a collision course with the obsession threatening to consume him . . .
This may sound odd, but something I struggle to do is review really good books. Somehow it’s easier to say what you thought of an average novel.
This is most definitely not an average novel. I picked it up last Sunday around 7, 7.30 am, with the intention of reading a few pages before I felt tired enough to go back to sleep. Roughly 5 hours and 385 pages later, I put it down. It utterly blew me away.
It’s only the third book in the series featuring DIs Wheeler and Ross and, like the other two, it has a deliciously complex plot. It’s not a novel I’d enjoy picking up and putting down; there’s a lot going on, and a fair few characters to keep tabs on – which means more suspects and possibilities; nothing I like better! But, as I found, it’s nigh on impossible to put down anyway…
DI Kat Wheeler is a great creation: ex-army, she’s feisty, pushy, and once she gets an idea in her head it’s hard to rein her in. As she’s a woman, of course this makes her a bitch and a ballbreaker. Ross is also hugely likeable (partly because he’s 6 foot 3 of solid muscle! And he seems totally unaware of how attractive he is, which is an attractive trait in itself.) Thankfully, there’s no romance between the two, just a good working relationship based on mutual respect and complimentary skills. Whereas Wheeler can be inclined to go in a bit all guns blazing, Ross holds her back – or does his best – at times it isn’t easy.
As well as this case having echoes of one in 2004, it turns out that Karlie Merrick the actress’s father was also a murder victim, which sets warning lights flashing – it’s such an unusual scenario, outside of a gangland family, that Wheeler and Ross believe there must be some kind of a connection. Her father had been a hypnotherapist. Recently she’d been talking about getting a reconstruction of her father’s murder made, both to reawaken interest in the murder, and to kickstart her lacklustre acting career. The SIO on that case is still around, and he happens to be Eddie Furlan – Wheeler’s adversary from her army days, Paul’s, father. Eddie Furlan’s one of these hypocritical parents, constantly telling Paul, “Mind your bloody language.” He also delights in comparing him unfavorably with his brother, and generally undermining him, despite his lucrative job as a security consultant for an ultra exclusive all-male club (you can imagine Wheeler’s reaction to that place!) Her body was also dumped close to a notorious biker’s bar, with connections to organised crime, providing another line of enquiry. Also of interest is Karlie’s acting career – she works at the cheap-and-nasty end of the porn industry, which is also peopled with unsavoury characters. And Karlie was a real headturner.
Also, one of Skye Cooper’s bandmates in the Kill Kestrels is back in Glasgow, and this time he has the money and the connections to investigate the fire which killed his young sister when they were in foster care. He’s convinced he heard an argument in the house that night, but the foster carer, who he tracks down, claims he’s mistaken: she was home alone. But he’s not finished with his investigations yet…
All the band politics worked really well and sounded so authentic, with the exhausted manager desperately trying to stop his cash cow from imploding, as the four young men, who have little in common bar the stage they share nightly, bicker and moan.
There’s also a side story about two deaths as a result of a gang fight in a Glasgow park. Plus there’s a life coach who was working with the actress who comes forward to try and help the police – but Wheeler’s got his number from the off, i.e. he’s a heavy bullshit merchant. And it seems he isn’t just using his life coaching skills to help women to realise their full professional potential (for £150 an hour!)
Everything knits together amazingly, and I defy anyone to figure out the conclusion, which sees the whole thing sewn up neatly, without a single loose end. It’s one of those books you feel like applauding when you’ve finished. (It’s also the sort of book that puts me off writing, as I think to myself, how can you possibly compete with reads like that?!)
Anne Randall has definitely got what it takes to be the next massive name in Tartan Noir – well-drawn characters, a plot that will blow you away, superb dialogue (plenty of great Glaswegian banter), and realistic crimes. If you enjoy Robert Galbraith, Caro Ramsay, Denise Mina, or Ian Rankin (or, like me, all of them!) this will fit the bill. It’s a hugely satisfying, very classy book, and I’d urge all crime fiction fans – particularly those who enjoy their dose of Tartan Noir – to seek out Anne Randall pronto. At the time of writing, Riven, the first in the Wheeler & Ross series, is £1.99 on Kindle – that’d be an ideal, and very reasonably priced, place to start (the second in the series is Silenced.) Fantastic stuff – the sort of book that reminds me why I love crime fiction so much!
My copy of this novel came courtesy of Constable Books in exchange for an honest review.