REVIEWED BY DEBS CARR
Glasgow 1946. The last time Brodie came home it was 1942 and he was a proud young man in a paratrooper's uniform. Now, the war is over but victory's wine has soured and Brodie's back in Scotland to try and save childhood friend Shug Donovan from the gallows. Everyone thought Donovan was dead, shot down in the war. Perhaps it would have been kinder if he had been killed. The man who returns from the war is unrecognisable: mutilated, horribly burned. Donovan keeps his own company, only venturing out for heroin to deaden the pain of his wounds. When a local boy is found raped and murdered, there is only one suspect. Donovan claims he's innocent but a mountain of evidence says otherwise. Despite the hideousness of the crime, ex-policeman Brodie feels compelled to try and help his one time friend. Working with advocate Samantha Campbell, Brodie trawls the mean streets of the Gorbals and the green hills of western Scotland in their search for the truth. What they find is an unholy alliance of troublesome priests, corrupt coppers and Glasgow's deadliest razor gang, happy to slaughter to protect their dark and dirty secrets. As time runs out for the condemned man, and the tally of murdered innocents rises, Brodie reverts to his wartime role as a trained killer. It's them or him.
This dark, brutal story shows Doug Brodie working as a journalist until his nemesis, Shug Donovan, calls him, asking for his help. I loved the vivid descriptions of the Gorbals in the 1940s where nothing seemed easy and life could be one long struggle. Brodie reluctantly returns to his childhood home where long-buried emotional wounds are re-opened and where he discovers that he has to be the bigger man if he’s going to help someone he’s resented for years. This book reminded me of black and white film noirs of the 1940s, it was dramatic, fast-paced and at times exceedingly violent, but somehow it all seemed to fit well into the story. It’s not an easy ride and you certainly don’t get what you assume will be the outcome, which was a little shocking at first and then ultimately very satisfying.
This story depicts a past that I know nothing about, but one which nonetheless fascinates me. I can imagine that this is one of those books that you either love or hate and for me it was the former. I enjoyed the tense discomfort endured by the protagonist and the way he had to work tirelessly with only Sam on his side. Her upbringing is completely different to Brodie's, but she's also had to put tragedy behind her to fight for what she wants out of life. This book shows a stark cruelty that people can be capable of towards others less fortunate, or at least different to themselves. There are quite a few shocks along the way, some I guessed and others I didn’t see coming. I’ll definitely read any future Gordon Ferris books.
You can find out more about Gordon Ferris on his website here.