Post-war Glasgow is the setting for "Pilgrim Souls", the excellent new Douglas Brodie novel by Gordon Ferris. It's late 1947, and the city is in the grip of the worst winter in living memory. It is also in the grip of fear, as a series of brutal murders takes place.
Things start out innocuously enough. Brodie, one time policeman and more recently an army officer, is earning a living as a local journalist when he is asked to investigate a series of burglaries in homes of members of the city's Jewish community. The police don't seem very interested and Brodie successfully tracks down the burglar, but he's too late. The man he is after is killed by the owner of a house he is robbing. Then the householder is murdered. Events rapidly spiral out of control, and Brodie finds himself pushed to the very edge, both mentally and physically, as he tries to uncover the truth behind the murders.
The relentless freezing temperatures, on top of coal shortages, help lend an oppressive atmosphere to the story, and things take a serious turn for the worse for Brodie when he finds there are strong links between the murders and his own past role as a war crimes investigator in Germany. It seems the only way of finding out what is really happening in Glasgow is to interview men and women on trial for their lives in Hamburg for their part in the murder of millions in the concentration camps. But this is something Brodie has done before, and the nightmares caused by the earlier experiences still haunt him.
Gordon Ferris has produced a gripping, fast paced novel set in a dark, dismal and thoroughly convincing world which succeeds in totally immersing the reader. We follow Douglas Brodie from Glasgow to Hamburg, and then back to a city in which the tension steadily builds towards a climax in which many different elements are brought into play. Brodie's search is helped when his old police colleague Danny McRae arrives out of the blue, and the two soon find themselves running an irregular and highly unofficial police force recruited from among the members of the Jewish community in their efforts to track down the killers. But in a chaotic world in which identities can be brought and sold and ethics are relative rather than absolute, is everyone necessarily what they seem to be?