There's a lot about "The Dead Don't Boogie" by Douglas Skelton that feels familiar. A wisecracking private investigator with a shady past as a failed journalist and drug-addict is asked to find a missing teenage girl. His search takes him to Saltcoats in Ayrshire and then to Glasgow. There seems to be something of a division of labour at work between Scotland's two main cities when it comes to crime novels. Novels set in Edinburgh tend to feature the city itself as a leading character, and wrap the action, Inspector Rebus-like, around the setting. Glasgow, on the other hand, tends to be the location favoured by authors who want somewhere suitable to serve as a backdrop for fast-paced violent action, often with a large body-count. We're not sure how Glasgow came to serve as Scotland's answer to Los Angeles, but "The Dead Don't Boogie" is by no means the first novel we've read that litters the city with a steadily extending trail of corpses.
Don't let the fact that the setting and the body-count, or the central character for that matter, might sound familiar put you off. Douglas Skelton's first outing for his protagonist Dominic Queste is a great read that draws you in and keeps you hooked until it spits you out, 235 extremely enjoyable pages later. The action sequences that are so central to the book are almost filmic in their portrayal. Meanwhile the character of Dominic Queste is engaging and likeable, despite (or perhaps because of?) his all too obvious flaws, and the lesser characters are equally well drawn and believable.
But what really makes this book is its plot. Dominic Queste sets out on what ought to be a very simple task. Jenny Deavers ran away from her aunt's home as a teenager four years earlier. But as Queste gets close to the girl he realises that he isn't alone in hunting for her. What could she possibly have done during that time to have attracted the attention of people who, it turns out, are only too prepared to murder to get to her? The action moves from one violent encounter to another, and Queste soon discovers he is up against people whose sheer cold-blooded professionalism goes far beyond anything home-grown in Scotland's most violent city. As the story builds, the layers of mystery deepen and become more complex. The conclusion is satisfying and convincing, and unexpected, despite its drawing together, as it does, loose ends left in plain sight at various points through the story.
There's a strong sense that we will be meeting Dominic Queste again, and that is very much to be welcomed. He offers a great deal of potential and we look forward to his next outing in what promises to be an extremely good series of novels.