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This is the first book in a new series by Craig Russell, who has had success with his series about Detective Jan Fabel, set in Hamburg.  However, here the setting is 1950s Glasgow, and the eponymous character is an enquiry agent with some distinctly dodgy methods, and who gets most of his work from the ‘Three Kings’; a triumvirate of gangsters, who between them are behind most of the crime in the city.

When up and coming gangster Tam McGahern is murdered, his twin brother Frankie asks Lennox to find out who’s behind it.  But then Frankie himself ends up dead and Lennox finds himself in the frame for the murder.  As he gets drawn into investigating the matter, he finds himself in ever more dangerous situations, never knowing who he can trust and who is not to be believed – and he discovers that things are far more complicated than he could have imagined…

Glasgow and its underworld is certainly brought into vivid focus here, and I felt able to easily imagine the atmosphere of the city.  The story itself moves along at a rapid pace and never allows time for the reader to become bored.  There are also plenty of twists and turns, at times so many so that the story became a little tied up in itself.

Lennox himself is not actually a particularly nice or likeable character; however, he is the nearest thing to a hero to be found in this novel, which is populated by criminals of all persuasions, with varying degrees of ruthlessness.  The book is narrated by Lennox himself, which means that the reader only gets to know what he knows, as he finds it out.  Unfortunately, it also meant that for me anyway, I did at times find his character jarring.  He had a habit of saying something, and then adding a little quip on the end, apparently to demonstrate how witty or ironic he was being.  The other problem was that a lot of the characters were very stereotyped, especially the criminals (and there aren’t many characters who aren’t criminals).

Nonetheless, this book is plot driven more than character driven, and the fast moving story, together with the problems which Lennox faces – which just keep piling up on top of each other – mean that it is never less than an entertaining read. 

So would I read another book in this series?  Possibly, but I wouldn’t rush out to get hold of a copy.  I have read one book in the Jan Fabel series and I definitely preferred that one.  If you like your crime stories cosy and funny, this probably isn’t the book for you – but if you like a more bleak and violent setting, you might want to give this one a try.

(Autor’s website can be found here.)

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This book has some terrific writing, but a storyline that does not match up to it.

To be fair, when I started reading this book I was quickly hooked, and felt that it might even become one of my absolute favourites.  Unfortunately, the ending felt rushed, was pretty predictable and let down the book. 

Still, it was a worthwhile read.  The main character – and the narrator – is William Wilson, a down-on-his-luck conjuror from Glasgow.  Hoping to make his fortune, he takes a job in Berlin and ends up recruiting a mysterious American girl named Sylvie as his assistant.  The story flicks back and forth between Berlin and Glasgow, as it slowly reveals the dark events that took place in Berlin, and how they have brought William to his present state of despair.  To say much more would be to give too much of the story away.  However, one minor gripe is that there was a seemingly unnecessary sub-plot regarding a decades old disappearance of a lady, which Wilson ends up becoming embroiled in.  The loss of this particular storyline would have not affected the book in any way, although it was in itself not an unenjoyable diversion from the main story.

William was well developed as a character – a man who has fallen on hard times, and hopes that his intelligence and cunning will be able to get him out of it.  The other characters were also well developed, even if the story was sometimes a little too incredible to be easily believable.

The real beauty of this book was in the elegant and wonderfully descriptive writing, which was worth taking time to savour.

Overall, while I did feel that the ending was something of an anti climax, this book did raise my interest enough to make me seek out more work by this author.

 

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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