Sometimes, when you read a book, it's easy to see how it might later be adapted into a film. "The Longest Shadow" by R. J. Mitchell is a little different. Here you get the sense that the film has already been made. The action hits you on page 8, and from there it carries on at a breathless pace right through to the cliffhanging conclusion on page 308. What R. J. Mitchell has produced is a long way from the sort of novel we've come to expect from the "Scottish crime" or "Tartan Noir" genre. Instead it feels like you've suddenly landed in a Hollywood blockbuster, with all the action, the violence and the special effects the cinema-going audience could possibly want: though the special effects are obviously much cheaper when the readers are creating them in their own heads.
Once you get used to the author's full-on approach, this book becomes great fun, and we found ourselves drawn into the action in much the same way you'd expect to be drawn into, say, a Die Hard movie, and for many of the same reasons. A fight to the death on the top of the Wallace Monument? Yes. Another fight to the death in the upper reaches of the Glasgow School of Art? Yes. A high octane car chase across Glasgow that leads to, amongst other things, the spectacular demise of a police helicopter and the death of its crew? Yes, it's got that too. As this suggests, the body count is high: we think there are over a dozen deaths but fewer than two dozen in the 300 pages referred to above. To a degree you have to suspend disbelief to get the very best from this book: but that does nothing to diminish your enjoyment of it. Indeed, there's a sense in which the slightly cartoonish feel of some of the violence makes it easier for the reader to accept.
Plot? Characters? Yes, "The Longest Shadow" has both. It is the third outing for Detective Sergeant Gus Thoroughgood and his sidekick, Detective Constable Kenny Hardie, as they pursue a gang of thieves turned kidnappers and murderers. Meanwhile, Thoroughgood's messy personal life finds him drawn into the increasingly dark events that surround a family who own a distillery on the shores of Loch Lomond. And while you do find time to get to know Gus and Kenny as the action drives inexorably forward, it's very much in passing, in the same way you'd get to know surfers riding a huge wave that is about to crash onto the shore. This is a book we'd thoroughly recommend to anyone wanting some really enjoyable escapism, albeit with geographical roots firmly planted in west central Scotland.