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Category Archive for 'Mystery, Thriller, Noir'

Fans of Scottish author William McIlvanney will rejoice in the publication of The Dark Remains, released six years after McIlvanney’s death in 2015. The father of “Tartan noir,” McIlvanney was highly successful in achieving enthusiastic audiences for three thrillers set in seamy Glasgow, all featuring Detective Sergeant Jack Laidaw. When an uncompleted novel – a prequel to the series of three Laidlaw novels McIlvanney published, was later found in his papers, his publisher offered another Scottish author, Ian Rankin, the chance to complete it. He accepted the job, and this is the result. The novel opens in 1972, with the death of a major player in some of the gang warfare in Glasgow. As Laidlaw becomes involved as a young detective, the author(s) show the dark reality of Glasgow during this period and the iconoclastic Laidlaw trying to solve the case without involving most of the police department directly. A large cast will keep readers on their toes, but fans of Scottish author William McIlvanney will rejoice in the publication of this prequel, released six years after McIlvanney’s death in 2015. The novel is fun to read, and the chance to live through a new Laidlaw experience is something I think most fans of the series will thoroughly enjoy.

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Set in Glasgow in the days between April 12, 1974 and April 22, 1974, this dark, mystery thriller by Alan Parks focuses on the dysfunctional aspects of life in one of Scotland’s major cities, one well known for its gangs and knife crime. The novel opens with an explosion at a “shitey rented flat in Glasgow,” which the polis see as a bizarre attempt to strike at the British establishment. Other bombings occur throughout the novel. In the meantime Det. Harry McCoy has reconnected with an old friend who has just been released from prison for serious crimes and who may be involved in more. A third plot line features a former US Navy captain whose son, stationed at the nuclear base in Greenoch, has disappeared. The father hopes McCoy will help him. The three plot lines feature approximately forty characters, many deaths, tortures, the possible involvement of the IRA and the British Intelligence Service, and individuals acting out on their own. Tartan noir fans will enjoy the nonstop action filled with horror, while some other readers will hope to find fuller characterizations, a few good female characters, and a ray of hope or two.

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Great fun to read, the primary purpose of the novel is to entertain while considering the role of plot in the success of any fiction. Because the plot within this novel, which is responsible for Jake’s astounding success, is the same story which makes this book by Jean Hanff Korelitz so successful, any attempt to summarize that plot would spoil the whole reason for reading it. It is a meticulously constructed novel which has a love story, several murders, intense relationships, shifts of focus among various characters and generations, and changes of location, and it is hard to imagine any reader becoming bored or tired of the action. The author is careful to keep the two plot lines from becoming confused. The story of Jake Bonner, nervous author of the bestseller “CRIB,” and the story within the story which originated with Evan Parker, will, of course, eventually merge, but that merger happens gradually and with plenty of foreshadowing. Fun to read and filled with real surprises, this is a pop novel which well deserves its popularity.

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In this “Tartan Noir” mystery set in 1973, thirty-year-old Harry McCoy, a member of the Glasgow polis, is about to have a week to end all weeks. From July 13, 1973 to July 21, 1973, he will be busy twenty-four hours a day with a series of heinous crimes that will take him from investigations in his native Glasgow to Belfast and back. Several missing persons and some grisly murders, which seem to be the most efficient way to solve difficult problems among the various crime lords of Glasgow, will keep him and his fellow officers so busy they rarely have time to drink, socialize, or experiment with substances. Only a few hours (and ten pages) after the novel begins with the disappearance of thirteen-year-old Alice Kelly, McCoy discovers the body of musician Bobby March, “the best guitarist of his generation,” a man who was not only asked to join the Rolling Stones, but said “no, thank you” to the offer. The noir gets even darker as the novel develops, with more grisly murders and a trip to Belfast by McCoy in search of more information regarding funding for the crimes in Glasgow. The references to Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones give context to Bobby March’s talent, and provide a bit of a break in this very dark narrative.

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If Jeremy Olson’s arresting cover art does not inspire new readers to investigate this book, the descriptions in the novel’s epigraph certainly will. Here July, the sister of September, describes her sister as, among other things, a black hole, a falling tree, the last packet of crisps, and a bricked up window. It takes little imagination to appreciate that this book is about to become a dark, perhaps horrific, psychological novel involving two sisters and, at a distance, their mother. Quickly involving her readers in the narrative, author Daisy Johnson depicts the disturbed family arriving at a decrepit house in the North York Moors. The sisters and their mother have moved there from Oxford, where the girls have lived all their lives to date, and none of them have any real expectation that they will be leaving this remote location anytime soon. Sheela, the mother, promptly disappears into a neglected but unoccupied room which will be hers for the expected duration, while the girls will be on their own in their own area of the house. Hints about the past and references to something the girls have done in Oxford may have been responsible for the mother’s silence and isolation, and July suspects that their real crime is having been born at all. A suspenseful can’t-put-it-downer.

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