"Blood Tears" is Michael J Malone's debut crime novel and marks a highly accomplished and thoroughly enjoyable entry into the genre. As the rear cover reveals, Blood Tears is the first in a series of books which will feature Glasgow detective DI Ray McBain. DI McBain is a man with a personal life that is dysfunctional even by the standards we have come to expect from the cops in Scottish crime fiction. Here we find him called in to investigate a bizarre and gruesome murder in which the wounds match those of the Stigmata. The elderly victim had links to the Catholic orphanage, Bethlehem House, in which McBain spent much of his childhood, and suddenly it all becomes very personal for McBain. So personal that he suppresses evidence of his own links with the orphanage at the time the victim worked there in order to avoid being taken off the case.
Big mistake. Before long this suppression of evidence means that McBain is seen by most of his colleagues as the only suspect in the case, and the situation becomes still worse when more victims turn up after McBain has escaped from custody and gone on the run, determined to catch the killer before his colleagues catch him. Only... as McBain delves further into the past and his own damaged psyche, even he starts to wonder whether he might actually be the murderer: a thought not shared by the reader thanks to the knowledge from the rear cover that we will be meeting him again in future books in the series.
The best known series of Scottish crime novels tend to follow an arc, in which the depth of the characters and the complexity of the storylines blossom as more books are written. What is particularly impressive about Michael J Malone's first outing as a crime novelist is that his characters, and DI Ray McBain in particular, hit the ground running in fully developed and highly believable form. Add in a complex and compelling plot that has strong echoes with current media concerns about child abuse and the Catholic church and you have an outstanding novel and a "must read" for all lovers of really good crime drama.