Anna Cameron is a new Sergeant in the Flexi Unit. On her first day in the new job she discovers she'll be working with her ex, Jamie, now married and with a child. In at the deep end emotionally after many years without him, she's also plunged headlong into the underworld of Glasgow's notorious Drag - the haunt of working girls, drug dealers and sad, seedy men. Someone is carving up the faces of local prostitutes, an old man has been brutally killed and racist violence is on the rise; Anna must deal with all this alongside tensions and backstabbing within her own team.
THE TWILIGHT TIME is the debut novel from ex-cop Karen Campbell - featuring Sergeant Anna Cameron as the central character. In 2009 Campbell won Best New Scottish Writer at the Scottish Variety Awards, and there is now a second book out: After the Fire, which switches the viewpoint to two characters from the first book - Jamie and his wife Cath.
But THE TWILIGHT TIME is a book that was recommended to me by somebody whose preferences I follow closely, and coincidentally was nominated as a discussion book on one of my email lists, so it was with some pleasurable anticipation that it was shunted up the To Be Read list.
When Anna Cameron is bought into a local station as part of an active policing unit there's some disquiet around the place - she's mostly been a head office / policy sort of police officer before this and nobody's all that convinced about her ability to take over and run a unit. Fragile emotionally after Jamie dumped her anyway, discovering that she'll be working with him puts her under increased (self-imposed) strain, and when she finds that there is active resentment against her from other members of the squad, she starts to fall apart. Becoming obsessed with the murder of Ezra, a frail, old Polish man doesn't help her cause with anybody - especially as it isn't one of her own cases. When she is injured in the chase for a man who has been carving up the faces of prostitutes, Anna doesn't cope at all well when Jamie's wife Cath (an ex-cop in her own right, with a very bad case of post-natal depression), reaches out to her, having known Ezra as well.
There's a hefty dose of angst, personal instability, depression, obsession, resentment, dislike, mistrust, lack of understanding, and selfishness in just about everybody in THE TWILIGHT TIME. To the point where it can be very off-putting. It's not often that you read a book and come out of it realising that there was a point in the narrative where you'd have cheerfully slapped just about every character. As somebody commented in the discussion we had about the book - there is a fine line between tough and obnoxious and some readers may choose to believe that Anna is tough - and others will be voting obnoxious. Personally I'm not adverse to a flawed central character, and I liked that Anna wasn't perfect and that there were signs of redeeming factors, although I will admit in THE TWILIGHT TIME there were too many flaws in too many of the characters. Having said that, I like characters that aren't too perfect and screw up and have bad days and are a bit grumpy and a bit stupid and occasionally daft as a brush, but stick with things, and care about something - and I really liked the way that Anna and Cath both cared about what happened to a lonely old man.
In terms of plot - there were some good touches, with the mystery of the death of Ezra, and what seems to be, on the face of it a racist plot, quite interesting. It was also touching to be reminded that an old man could die, alone and mostly unforgotten and unremarked on. The other case that is being pursued by Anna's team is the carving up of prostitute's faces. This is resolved reasonably well, although at points it does seem to disappear into all the personal stuff a little, and in both investigations there were a few procedural twists and turns that didn't make a lot of sense. This is a debut book however, and sometimes they can have some flaws. The question really is would reading THE TWILIGHT TIME make me want to pick up the second book and it certainly did that.
STONE'S FALL - Iain Pears
In his most dazzling and brilliant novel since An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears tells the story of John Stone, financier and armaments manufacturer, a man so wealthy that in the years before World War One he was able to manipulate markets, industries and indeed whole countries and continents. A panoramic novel with a riveting mystery at its heart, Stone's Fall is a quest to discover how and why John Stone dies, falling out of a window at his London home.
STONE'S FALL by Iain Pears is one of those books that just looks intimidating. Even in paperback it's a great big doorstopper of a thing - 597 pages long. One of those books that you wonder if you can risk reading in bed, what with a tendency to doze off and the potential for blackened eyes and badly squished noses. Three books in one in styling, STONE'S FALL tells the story of why John Stone, First (and last) Baron Ravenscliff died, falling from a window at his London home.
Starting out with a funeral in Paris in 1953, the story quickly sets itself in 1909 London, in the immediate aftermath of Stone's death. Matthew Braddock, young, enthusiastic, journalist finds himself in the unlikely position of being hired by Elizabeth, Lady Ravenscliff ostensibly to write the biography of her husband. In truth, he is tasked to discover the truth of his death. The middle section of the book, set in 1890's Paris switches the viewpoint to that of Henry Cort - long time friend of Elizabeth and Stone, ex-banker, ex-journalist, government informer, Cort is a shadowy figure in the earlier London based investigation, and the middle section sets out to explain why. Everything leads to the final section of the book - Venice, 1867 and Stone's own story, told by him, right up to the time at which he dies.
As each of these viewpoints is effectively a book in their own right, there is a lot of time and space for Pears to flesh out their individual stories and to reveal the elements that go to make up the truth behind Stone's death. Matthew Braddock's investigations, which he undertakes from a starting point of very little information takes him back into Stone's own past as well as that of his wife. He works diligently, but frequently somewhat ineptly to discover the truth behind Stone's life. Along the way facts are revealed, relationships exposed and slowly the details of a complicated personal and business life are revealed. In the second part of the book, Henry Cort takes over the story, opening up in particular, facets of Elizabeth's life that have had an impact on Stone's death. Each of these parts leads inevitably to Stone's opportunity to tell his own story wherein a lot of time is available to discuss motivations and tie up some loose ends. Stone's personal life has definitely had it's own complications, his business life likewise. Unfortunately, of the entire book, the final section is undoubtedly the weakest with some lapses into inexplicable and seemingly unnecessary supernatural elements, and a rushed and somewhat clumsy resolution.
STONE'S FALL is an interesting book because of its structure. Tipping the narrative timeline on its head, starting with a death and then working backwards in such incredible detail isn't a standard approach, and it made for something very different. Within this structure there were parts of the book which were just dazzling and absolutely involving, and parts that were less successful. Unfortunately the less successful was undoubtedly the finale which just got unbelievably clunky, and to be frank, so transparent it was really really disappointing. All in all a book where the journey was considerably more rewarding than the destination.
BLACK BUTTERFLY - Mark Gatiss
Lucifer Box. He's tall, he's dark and, like the shark, he looks for trouble.
Or so he wishes. For, with Queen Elizabeth newly established on her throne, the now elderly secret agent is reaching the end of his scandalous career. Despite his fast-approaching retirement, queer events leave Box unable to resist investigating one last case...
BLACK BUTTERFLY is the third Secret Service novel featuring tall, dark, suave spy about town Lucifer Box. Although it will come as a bit of a shock to readers of these books to discover that Lucifer has gotten old, fast approaching retirement. Good grief! Old age comes to Lucifer Box ... who would have believed it could ever happen. Worse still, this is billed as the final of the Lucifer Box novels which is particularly sad for those readers who have come to love the overly energetic lovelife, spycraft and general man about towning of the great Lucifer Box.
But retirement is coming, Queen Elizabeth II is newly established on the throne, and pillars of the English Establishment have started dying in bizarre accidents. Lucifer Box is the only man for the job - from the back streets of Soho, to the souks of Istanbul and the sun and sand of Jamaica, Lucifer must confront an enemy with roots in his own past, and discover who is behind the enigmatic (and not unattractive by any means) assassin Kingdom Kum. All at the same time that he must deal with the news that his young son - Christmas Box - wants to be a Boy Scout of all things!
Aging Lucifer may be. Pressing retirement may be. Burdened with unexpected parental responsibility as he is. Confounded by his offspring's somewhat conservative pursuits, Box can be relied upon when duty calls. And there are some duties that could only be resolved by a man of the eclectic tastes and experiences of Box. But this case, with the dangerous and desirable Kingdom Kum stalking his every move comes with a level of personal threat that Box would shrug off in his younger days.
Of course there's very very little that's serious in these books, and that's exactly why they are so fantastic. BLACK BUTTERFLY is as crazy, energetic and risqué as the earlier two books - all the action, suspense, thrills, spills, love and yearning, lust and sex, delivered in the same wonderful, slightly tongue in cheek fashion. I do confess a considerable feeling of sadness if this is, in fact, the last ever Lucifer Box book. I really can see how he could be called upon to perform yet more daring deeds - from his wheelchair in his dotage if necessary.
If you're a fan of crazy puns and tongue in cheek humour, and don't mind a little, shall we say unorthodox personal lifestyle choices, then BLACK BUTTERFLY and the two earlier books - THE VESUVIUS CLUB and THE DEVIL IN AMBER could be just the thing. You're certainly in for a bit of a fun treat. It might be best if you could read the books in order as they are set in vastly different time periods (Edwardian, the 1920's and finally the 1950's and you do get a bit of a feeling of the different time settings) but it's probably not strictly necessary if you're having trouble tracking down any of them.
INNOCENT BLOOD - Elizabeth Corley
DCI Andrew Fenwick is on a tough case. The Choir Boy investigation, a project outside ordinary police jurisdiction, aims to expose an infamous and increasingly powerful paedophile ring. Moreover, with eleven-year-old schoolboy Sam Bowyers missing, every second counts. But is the investigation more complex than it initially seems? And could something buried alongside a child's corpse, twenty-five years ago, be a vital clue?
There are some authors who just seem to be able to consistently turn out good books, ones that engage your attention, sometimes create some discomfort in the reader, but invariably make you think. Elizabeth Corley is one of those authors for me, I remember her books long after I've finished reading them. INNOCENT BLOOD continues the standard.
DCI Fenwick's case - the Choir Boy investigations into a paedophile ring, was triggered by information from the USA, indicating that there is a paedophile ring operating in his area. This ring looks like it has been in existence for years and could very well have been involved in the murder of local boys. One boy's body, murdered and buried twenty-five years ago has already been discovered, and there is another boy who has been missing for a similar amount of time, as well as an eleven-year old who has recently disappeared. At the same time Major Maidment may have been hailed as a hero by the local community, when he shoots a conman when he pulled a knife on police, but Fenwick's friend and colleague Inspector Nightingale is looking at having to charge the Major with attempted murder. She's also convinced that Major Maidment is hiding something.
Some readers will may the subject matter in INNOCENT BLOOD disturbing, but the handling of it is sensitive, without sensation, whilst also revealing enough to ensure you're aware of the evil that is being perpetrated. There are quite a lot of books around at the moment that have paedophilia as the central crime and many of those don't do the subject matter justice. Sometimes you get the distinct feeling of the crime du jour being followed, not contributing anything much to the readers understanding of the central subject matter. That's not the case in INNOCENT BLOOD as the book conveys a number of aspects of the crime, including a series of saddening and differing points of view, but ultimately the message is clearly that whilst paedophilia itself is incomprehensibly sick, there's something considerably more chilling in the organisation and joint participation in such activity. The men in INNOCENT BLOOD who perpetrate these crimes are undetectable in their day to day lives - uncomfortably normal.
Whilst the subject matter may trigger an automatic skip in some people, the book is extremely well done. Tight, taut, uncomfortable, sensitive, caring INNOCENT BLOOD isn't what you could call an enjoyable read, but it was exactly the sort of book that you can expect from this author, and really worth sticking with.
TORN APART - Peter Corris
Semi-retired. De-licensed. But Cliff Hardy is once again fighting for justice and tracking down evil when his cousin is brutally murdered - did the shotgun blast find its target, or was it meant for Hardy?
It couldn't ever be said that the loss of his Private Investigator's licence has slowed Cliff Hardy down. In TORN APART, the death of his look-alike cousin in Cliff's house, an arrest for importing illegal drugs, a trip to Ireland, a gathering of Irish Traveller descendants, a brush with the spooks and a new woman don't even slow him down. But they do coincide to give him a moment or two's thought.
Meeting Patrick - a second cousin he never knew about, a second cousin who is the absolute spitting image of him certainly does give Cliff something to think about. Not the least because the contact comes out of the blue and impetuously leads to a trip to Ireland to track down their joint ancestors. Having had a tremendous trip overseas, the cousins return to Sydney and Cliff's house, only to have Patrick shot to death in Cliff's back bathroom. For a while it's not particularly clear who was the intended target - Cliff or Patrick, the physical similarity being as startling as it is. Pretty soon Patrick's ex-wife enters the fray (and Cliff's bed), the spooks appear, and Patrick is obviously not exactly what he seemed to be. Cliff starts out investigating - to avenge his cousin, protect his own skin, clear his own name, keep in sweet with the girl, and because he just can't help himself.
There have been some terrific books in the Cliff Hardy series recently, in the lead up to, and the ultimate loss of his PI Licence. A heart attack, a near fatal bullet wound, getting older, a lot of things have contributed in recent books to Cliff becoming a slightly (very slightly) different person to who he used to be. Perhaps that's why TORN APART isn't my absolute favourite of the recent books - mostly because this outing felt more like a return to the expected pattern. Events happen; Cliff gets the girl; he's threatened and backed into a corner; solves the case; starts to lose the girl. Not that the pattern isn't well executed, enjoyable, and just a darn good entertaining read, but perhaps it's that slight feeling of returning to the same old same old, the lack of Cliff continuing to move on, changing, aging, adapting. There's none of that feeling in TORN APART, and because of that, it's not going to make my one of my favourite Cliff Hardy books. Mind you, it's still a good, entertaining, perfect summer quick read, in the full-on style of Cliff Hardy. There's not a lot wrong with that.
THE FORTUNES OF MARY FORTUNE - Lucy Sussex (ed)
'To fall asleep and dream dreams that change as quickly as the forms in an unsteady kaleidoscope, and to awaken with a bewildered feeling that you are not yourself but have changed places with some other identity, must be a sensation akin to that I experienced when I opened my eyes in the morning after my first sleep on the diggings.'
First published by Penguin in 1989 THE FORTUNES OF MARY FORTUNE wasn't the easiest book to track down. In fact it took a lot of driving across the Goldfields region of Victoria to get my hands on a copy, which is somewhat appropriate given that the Central Goldfields is one of the locations that Mary Fortune wrote so much about.
THE FORTUNES OF MARY FORTUNE is edited by Lucy Sussex who is undoubtedly the expert on a woman who deserves a wider audience and considerably more acknowledgement for both the quality of her writing as well as for her historic place in Australian literary history.
From the book blurb: "Little is known of Mary Fortune. She kept her identity secret by writing under the names of Waif Wander or W.W.. Arriving in Australia with her young son, she supported herself by writing about life on the goldfields and in the cities. She became Australia's first female writer of crime fiction."
The book is made up of a series of stories that Mary Fortune wrote - Part One is subtitled The Memoirs: Twenty-six years ago or The Diggings from '55. This is made up of stories that set in Arrival in Melbourne, Kangaroo Flat (now a suburb of Bendigo), Buninyong (now a suburb of Ballarat), Chinaman's Flat and Inkerman in and around the general area of Maryborough Victoria.
The second part of the book is subtitled The Journalism - Fourteen Days on the Road, Looking for Lodgings, How I Spent Christmas, Down Bourke Street, Towzer and Co, The Spider and the Fly.
Each of these stories evolve around crimes and people, detection by observation and interaction, whilst being firmly set in the time and the place. You get such a wonderful feeling of the goldfields, the difficulties of living in such harsh circumstances, and the people - the miners and the shopkeepers, the police and the criminals. You also get a real feel for the thinking / the prejudices and the humanity of the people involved. You're also allowed very small glimpses of the life of Mary Fortune herself, albeit dressed up / disguised just enough as she did with her own identity.
There's nothing like a quest in life, and there's something very satisfying about a quest involving Australian literature by a little known pioneering literary woman. If you've not read any of Mary Fortune's work then I can highly recommend a quest to track down a copy of THE FORTUNES OF MARY FORTUNE.
FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Kerry Greenwood
Corinna Chapman, owner of Earthly Delights, detests Christmas. The shoppers are frantic and the heat oppressive. Neither of which this perfect size 20 with a genius for baking breads finds congenial. She's dreaming of quiet, air-conditioned comfort but instead finds herself dealing with a rose-loving donkey named Serena, a maniacal mother with staring eyes, a distracted assistant searching for the perfect muffin recipe, her friend the fearless witch Meroe, and the luscious Daniel with whom she'd like to spend a lot more time.
FORBIDDEN FRUIT is the 5th book in the Corinna Chapman series by Australian author Kerry Greenwood (probably best known for her Phryne Fisher series). These books are set in modern day, inner Melbourne, are also on the cosier end of the scale. There are enough elements that coincide in both series to make fans of one feel somewhat comfortable in the other. Having never read any of the earlier books in this series, though, I can't comment on whether FORBIDDEN FRUIT is particularly representative, so I comment on it in isolation.
Corrina is a woman who has turned to baking after a life in the professions. Happier, content to the point of delirious, she is even able to just cope with the 4.00am starts. Living in very idealised circumstances, she has a happy home life in a building full of bohemian type characters, all living their own somewhat unorthodox lives. A content love life with Daniel, the main thing making Corinna grumpy in this book is Christmas.
Basically the story is that Daniel, the private investigator, is trying to track down two teenage runaways. Pregnant Brigid and the father of her baby Manny. Neither parents approve of either of the couple, Brigid has been locked up at home awaiting the birth of the unwanted (by her family) child, when she escapes and hits the streets with Manny. Daniel wants to find them because he's been asked by her parents, Corinna wants to find them because she's worried for Brigid's health. Along the way they are assisted / distracted by nuns who run a soup kitchen bus, freegans, maniacal mothers, thunderstorms and naked dancing witches, a donkey named Serena, glace cherries, the heat of a long hot Melbourne summer and meals which are described in somewhat minute detail.
Whilst it could be that all these distractions - and to be frank - meandering down a simply astounding number of irrelevant byways and cul-de-sacs is part of the charm of these books, in FORBIDDEN FRUIT, it just seemed to go on, and on, and on, and on. As did the none-too-subtle hinting about the joys of bohemia and alternative lifestyles and finding your inner whatevers. Not that I'm opposed to any of the elements that were raised by this book - but I just found that the constant bombardment and distractions ended up, well tedious. Every time the plot tried to progress a little, the reader was suddenly down one of those cul-de-sacs with a whinge about something (really, if you don't like Christmas decoration shopping then just don't do it!), or a lauding of "insert bandwagon here". Yes, I know these books are fictional and idealised, and maybe that's part of the problem - I prefer idealised fiction that "shows" rather than "crows".
There are some glimpses of parallels between elements of these books and the Phyrne Fisher series that were interesting - a similar sort of independent, feisty female character with an abandonment of normal conventions. But in FORBIDDEN FRUIT everything just seemed a little too over the top, a little too arch, a little too preachy for comfort. Perhaps this is a book for fans of the series, perhaps there's something about not reading the earlier books that means I missed the point.
TIME MACHINES REPAIRED WHILE-U-WAIT, K A Bedford
It's 2027, suburban Malaga, Western Australia. Ex-cop Aloysius 'Spider' Webb is working as a time-machine repairman - and people are crazy about time travel. Spider is getting on okay (if you put to one side his failed marriage and dead-end career) until he discovers the mutilated body of a woman in a second-hand time machine. What starts out as just another repair job on a faulty time machine becomes a battle for what lies at the very End of Time.
TIME MACHINES REPAIRED WHILE-U-WAIT arrived recently, intended probably for my science fiction reading partner, but something in the blurb made me want to snaffle it first, and I'm very very glad I did.
This is one of those books that come along every now and again to tip the whole concept of "genre" on its head. It's a crime story, in a Science Fiction style world. Set in 2027 Western Australia, 'Spider" Webb is an ex-cop, recently separated, working now as a Time Machine mechanic. In 2027 suburban Malaga, a lot of people have time machines, but the future isn't completely mad - these machines come with some limitations. You can slip backwards and forwards to visit, say the relatives, but you can't interfere with major world events (you only get to visit in "ghost" mode). Time machines though, have their problems, mostly to do with cats it seems, and there is a never-ending stream of them needing fixing passing through Spider's workshop. (In a very nice twist it doesn't matter how long it takes to fix one of these things, Spider just goes back in time to just after he picked it up to deliver the repaired machine back!).
Spider's own life is complicated (of course!). He lives in a hotel since his wife threw him out, yet he's forever being summoned to his old home to fix whatever it is piece of technology that's playing up. Urgently. He works long hours, at a job he doesn't like; for a boss he can't stand - even if he does insist that everyone call him Dickhead (McMahon). No matter how hard he tries he cannot coax a decent cup of coffee out of the robot coffee machine (even though the company receptionist has no problems at all), and with all the advances in science and technology, traffic jams are still the bane of his existence. It almost seems inevitable that one day, a repair job is going to get complicated, just to prove to Spider that his life really does suck. So the arrival of a woman's dead body when he's trying to analyse an unstable Time Machine, well it had to happen.
Despite the authorities taking over the investigation, Spider can't leave well enough alone, and as events get more and more complicated, Spider finds himself in the fight of his, and his wife's, lives.
Given the advent of Time Machines, it's hardly surprising that investigating a crime could go in a very different direction from what you'd expect in 2009. But there are some unexpected twists and turns that make the expected or seemingly obvious, well not. There's also delightfully bizarre stuff going on with Spider who ends up working with Future and near-Future versions of himself as he goes backwards and forward in time, and right out to the End of Time. Or somewhere. It all gets very crazy at points with Future Spider sleeping with current Spider's unrequited lust, with Spider's wife being threatened, or not threatened, or dead, or alive, or something... At some points things do seem to get a little muddled, but I'm not sure that it was muddled in a totally bad way. I liked the idea that even a time-travelling repair man, ex-cop, accidental detective, saver of the universe could get a tad confused about where or who or what on earth was going on. Or not on earth as the case may be.
For an infrequent Science Fiction reader, this book had real appeal if for no other reason that it was incredibly entertaining. Mind you, I gave up looking for the detail in any of the alternate timelines and just opted for going along for the ride. The ride greatly enhanced by the character of Spider, whose reluctant hero status was actually quite appealing. Add to that the surprise package of Dickhead, so gloriously over the top that he just had to an anti-hero - somehow.
The only possible complaint is that the book did sort of crash to a bit of an ending, and it may be that a crime fiction fan would find that the investigation component took a secondary seat to the alternate timelines and a threat to the entire world type scenario, but who's to say what the rules are in a cross-genre book like this. Personally I just thought this was tremendous fun. And I profoundly hope that I never have to meet up with my Future / Near-Future or Past self. There are some things from the past that would be best staying there, and I certainly don't want to chat to my future up close and over breakfast.
STONEDOGS - Craig Marriner
In between drug deals and binge-drinking, reckless driving and street fights, the delinquents of the Brotherhood wage the holiest of wars. Yes, they will derail the Juggernaut before it can suicide . or have a ball trying at least. But when one of them falls prey to Roto-Vegas gang members, the cultural terrorists mobilise in earnest.
Sometimes you pick up a book, start reading, and instantly start wondering what on earth is going on. Yet for some reason, you cannot put the darn thing down. That's exactly what happened for me with STONEDOGS. Mind you, if I'd have read the blurb that states that Craig Marriner is New Zealand's answer to Irvine Welsh and Quentin Tarantino, I probably could have recognised a hint about what I was in for.
STONEDOGS isn't a recent book - it won the Montana New Zealand Book Award Deutz Medal in 2002, but it is a book that was recently bought to my attention by a correspondent on my website. Boy am I pleased about that pointer, otherwise I might have missed reading this completely.
Not that STONEDOGS is a particularly easy or pleasant read. The book is manic, rapidfire, and insane at points. Basically you've got a small group of teeanagers - the Brotherhood, waging the holiest of wars. Against something. Or somebody. Not sure. But they are a bunch of kids who stick together through drug deals, binge-drinking, abortive attempts to pick up girls (and not so abortive attempts for some of them), reckless driving and street fights. At heart, a bunch of fun-seeking young lads, there's a closeness and a supportiveness in this little band that just makes them so likeable - even though you have to scrape through a fair amount of trash talk and faux toughness to get to the reality. But as in so many of these coming of age type tales, things go awry and revenge takes over and the journey gets mad, bad and very dangerous.
Undoubtedly cringe inducing, STONEDOGS will also have you laughing out loud. As well as feeling vaguely reassured that whilst the language may change, and perhaps there's a tighter, tougher, slightly more dangerous edge to some of the activities, teenagers, basically haven't changed that much. Or at least they are still recognisable. As are the bonds of friendship, the lunacy of risk taking, the rites of passage.
I definitely had no idea what was going on at points in this book, but I also found I simply could not put it down. Dark, violent, very in your face, this isn't going to be a book for everybody. But for anybody who does pick it up - I think I can guarantee it will stay with you for quite a while.
LENNOX - Craig Russell
Private investigator Lennox stands somewhere between legal and illegal, honour and greed, crims and cops. The one clear thing about Lennox is his certainty that only the toughest and most ruthless survive in his home town of Glasgow.
Craig Russell is best known for his series of novels featuring Hamburg based detective Jan Fabel, but LENNOX is (it is reported) the first in a series of neo-noir styled novels, this one set in Glasgow, post World War II. Lennox is a Canadian ex-soldier who bears the psychological and physical scars of a brutal war, left with a skill set that makes him an ideal player in post-war, corrupt, grimy, dirty, mucky, violent Glasgow. Organised crime is establishing itself and at the centre of machinations are identical twins, Tam and Frankie McGahern. When Tam is murdered Lennox is "hired" by Frankie to find his killer. Now Tam, it seems, was the brains of the twins operation, and Frankie mostly muscle, as Lennox finds when he tries to sidestep Frankie's request. But when Frankie quickly turns up dead himself, and Lennox finds himself in the frame for his murder, he doesn't have much choice but to solve the mystery of both murders himself.
Lennox is one of those lone-wolf, fixer, cynical, wisecracking, dark and troubled traditional noir characters. Not a cliché however, he sits within the timeframe of 1950's Glasgow and the place and circumstances. Damaged by a brutal war, Lennox, and Glasgow, the crime figures, the cops, everyone fits within the expectations of time and place. Interestingly enough I was a little into the novel before I sorted out the timeframe, the era and the resulting factors that were driving the characters - which was actually a good thing. There is a real feeling of reality and actuality about the book, that make the wise-cracks, the dangerous (but a little thick) men, the dangerous (not necessarily thick) women, all delivered with a Glasgow-Scottish tweak just fit together very seamlessly.
The best part of LENNOX is undoubtedly the great story-telling, the tale is told in the first person - Lennox is hard-bitten, driven, yet funny and honourable. The sense of place, the gloom and the ever-present outfall from a brutal war is palpable. The only downside of the book that remained is that I didn't find anything in it particularly memorable - it hasn't really stayed with me since completing reading it. But I did enjoy the actual reading of it immensely.