#Bookvent – Celebrating my top reads of 2021
My day eighteen #bookvent selection is a book that I was really intrigued and excited to read, one that had been highly anticipated amongst the crime fiction community, and one which very nearly didn’t get written. Part of a series, this book is a prequel, so that fact that, true to form, I hadn’t read the other books was not an issue. But not only was this a prequel, it was an unexpected but welcome collaboration – between the father of Tartan Noir and one of the genre’s most instantly recognisable names. It is probably no surprise to hear that my eighteenth pick is …
The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin
If the truth’s in the shadows, get out of the light . . .
Lawyer Bobby Carter did a lot of work for the wrong type of people. Now he’s dead and it was no accident. Besides a distraught family and a heap of powerful friends, Carter’s left behind his share of enemies. So, who dealt the fatal blow?
DC Jack Laidlaw’s reputation precedes him. He’s not a team player, but he’s got a sixth sense for what’s happening on the streets. His boss chalks the violence up to the usual rivalries, but is it that simple? As two Glasgow gangs go to war, Laidlaw needs to find out who got Carter before the whole city explodes.
William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw books changed the face of crime fiction. When he died in 2015, he left half a handwritten manuscript of Laidlaw’s first case. Now, Ian Rankin is back to finish what McIlvanney started. In The Dark Remains, these two iconic authors bring to life the criminal world of 1970s Glasgow, and Laidlaw’s relentless quest for truth.
I loved this book. I devoured it, completely drawn into the world of Detective Jack Laidlaw as he navigates the Glasgow streets, trying, perhaps against the odds, to prevent a gang war from erupting in the name of retribution. I can’t speak from a point of authority never having read the three original Laidlaw novels, but what I can say is that this book hooked me from the off. Not just the mystery of who murdered Bobby Carter, but very much the characters who started to appear on the page. From gangland bosses, Cam Colvin and John Rhodes to the diverse police team, notably DI MIlligan (idiot) and Laidlaw’s new, somewhat reluctant partner, DS Bob Lilley, each one is portrayed so brilliantly, the voices unique and the personality so vivid that they come to life on the page. But it is Laidlaw who really makes a mark, as you’d probably expect. He’s a maverick, as far from a team player as you can imagine. Laidlaw likes to fly solo, enjoys poetry, struggles with family life and strives to understand the people of Glasgow and the reasons behind the crime, something he finds as important as simply working out whodunnit. It all plays out perfectly in the narrative, Laidlaw’s intuitive nature and inability to stick to Milligan’s script making for some magical moments in the story. He knows how to play the game, how to work with and not just against the people on the wrong side of the law, as long as it gets the results he needs.
Bearing in mind this book is set a few years before I was born, I felt transported back to 1970’s Glasgow, to the time when smoking at your desk was still a thing, and there was no triangulation of mobile phone signals to pinpoint, or break, the alibi of your suspects. It’s good old fashioned police work at play and it leads to some conflict as one party tends to take the easy road and ignore the facts right in front of their face. It’s a craftily plotted tale but one which left me smiling, even if it was somewhat ruefully by the end. It is easy to see why Laidlaw, and the work of William McIlvanney, is quoted as clearing the way for the new wave (then) of Scottish crime fiction. There are so many elements of this book that I recognise in the books that I have read, echoes of a genre which is unapologetically gritty, urban and down to earth. There are certainly shades of Laidlaw in Rebus, and in that respect I’m not sure they could have found a better fitting author to complete this book. The transitions are seamless, the story divine. I loved this. Love the pacing, loved the characters, loved the story. Loved it so much, I bought the first three books the very next day. My 2022 reading list is looking mighty fine.
You can read my full review of The Dark Remains right here.
Happy #bookvent reading all
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