Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Another Excellent Tale from Jay Stringer

This is a darkly funny and violent story in which Jay Stringer creates a number of disparate characters, sets them largely at odds against each other, and then steps back and watches while they attempt to somehow find their way out of the mess he’s left them in.

As the story opens, two killers set upon a drunken man named Mackie, catching him in a whorehouse at the most indelicate of moments. They shoot him in the leg, but Mackie manages to escape and makes his way to his Uncle Rab’s. Rab Anderson is a gangster-turned-author and when Mackie arrives at his home, he discovers that Uncle Rab is nowhere to be found. Worse, Uncle Rab’s dog has been killed, suggesting that things are going downhill in a big hurry, both for Mackie and for his uncle.

Sam Ireland is a female P.I. who has taken over her father’s one-man shop. Dad’s in the nursing home and his memory wanders in and out. Mostly it’s out and while Sam would like to fill the old man’s shoes and make him proud, it would sure as hell help if all his secrets weren’t locked away in a mind that’s only occasionally open for business.

A firm of mysterious but apparently very well-to-do lawyers hires Sam to track down Mackie’s Uncle Rab and deliver some legal documents to him. The lawyers hint that this is a test case and if Sam does well, there may be a lot of profitable business headed her way. This is Sam’s big chance and she wants to make the most of it. But the search for Rab takes her into some very sleazy places and antagonizes some very nasty people. And the closer she gets to finding Rab, the more likely it is that this will not only be her biggest case, but also her last.

Detective Inspector Andy Lambert is a cop with some very scary friends and relations. He’s hip deep in the whole Rab Anderson situation and with both Mackie and Sam attempting to find the elusive uncle, Andy’s life is also getting a lot more complicated and dangerous. His personal life is at a critical point as well and he’s going to have to maneuver very carefully if the house of cards he’s created is not going to come tumbling down around him.

All of the action takes place in the seamy underside of Glasgow. There are some great dive bars and other such establishments here and a cast of warped but very interesting characters, many of whom have deep secrets that they do not want exposed. Stringer heightens the tension from start to finish by turning from one character to the next and by rapid shifts from one scene to another. It’s a gripping story, outrageous (in a very good way), with some nasty humor as well. Mackie, in particular, is a character with an interesting world view—a guy you’d like to have a beer with sometime when he wasn’t leaking blood all over the place and being pursued by guys you’d rather not have a beer or anything else to do with. All in all, Ways to Die in Glasgow is a great noir-ish read that will appeal to large numbers of readers who enjoy their crime fiction a bit on the quirky side.

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