"Never Proven" by Bill Daly is the fourth in the author's series of crime thrillers featuring Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Anderson and set largely in Glasgow. There's a huge following out there for good Tartan Noir and "Never Proven" is very good Tartan Noir indeed. We've read all of Bill Daly's books, and while we've enjoyed them all, it's wonderful to see the way his output has become more assured and accomplished each time a new novel emerges. "Never Proven" is the best yet and will delight readers with its beautifully plotted twists and turns that keep you guessing all the way to what must be one of the best endings we've ever enjoyed to a whodunit. A really good ending to a book like this should leave the reader feeling both surprised and satisfied: and that's exactly how you emerge from "Never Proven".
There are ways in which Bill Daly's DCI Anderson novels conform to the usual conventions of Tartan Noir. A big city setting? Yes - in this case Glasgow. Plenty of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to other people? Yes, definitely. A central character who is a policeman with a wholly dysfunctional personal life? Well, actually, no. While conforming in some ways, Bill Daly has taken a fairly novel approach in having a central character with a settled home life, a good marriage and a reasonably happy family. There are complications arising from the relationship that's developing between Charlie Anderson's daughter and his deputy, but on the whole these are unusually happy investigators; notwithstanding unhelpful interference from Charlie's boss, whose main interest is in looking good when the Chief Constable asks how things are going.
So, to the story, which we've avoided talking about so far for the simple reason that we don't want to spoil the reader's enjoyment by revealing too much. At the heart of the plot is the murder of an IT consultant on a Glasgow street at night. Charlie Anderson feels the victim must have known his killer: although his mobile phone is missing, there's a large amount of cash in an envelope in his pocket. And then it emerges that the victim is not quite who he seems to be and the list of possible suspects begins to grow. Meanwhile the toilets of a run-down pub in a run-down area become the venue for a horrific assault. No-one admits to seeing or hearing anything, but it soon becomes clear that there may be a connection between the assault and the murder. Or is there?