There's a fear that's so widely shared by authors that it's been given its own name: it's called the "second book syndrome." It's a description of the raft of issues that confront any author trying to deliver on the promise of their first book when writing their second. In our review of it, we described "Granite Grit" by Lee Cooper as "a remarkable book, and one that deserves to be widely read." So, the central question is this: how does his second book, "The Right Hand Man" stack up against it? Put simply, Lee Cooper's second book is even better than his first. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that we'd unhesitatingly recommend to anyone looking for a fast-paced and gritty thriller.
The story is told from the first person perspective of Davie Rhodes. Davie is possibly the most wholeheartedly unpleasant central character we can remember encountering in a novel, so it's a little difficult to set out clearly why we found ourselves so drawn to him. Perhaps it's because he is so brutally honest with himself and with the reader: as opposed to simply being just brutal with everyone else. He has almost no redeeming traits whatsoever: you get the sense that even a highly out-of-character act of kindness to a group of eastern European children is a means of salving his troubled conscience rather than because he really has the slightest interest in the well being of any other human being.
We've met Davie before. He's the long-absent father of Joe, the protagonist in "Granite Grit", and there are distinct points of convergence between the two books. These come at the nicely constructed and beautifully unexpected conclusion, which we'll not spoil for you, and much earlier, when Davie's abuse drives his wife to suicide; to an attack on him in an Aberdeen pub by Joe; and to Davie's fleeing in shame from the life he'd lived in Aberdeen.
Despite Davie's monstrous nature (or could that be because of it?) his story is a compelling one. We've already described it as "gritty". That's perhaps an understatement: "savage" might be a better word. From his childhood in the slums of Glasgow's Gorbals he moves on to being a criminal hard man and a bare-knuckle fighter with a formidable reputation. His main weakness is that he is also a man who has an innate, and at times excessive, belief in his own ability to stay one step ahead of the law and of anyone he works for. This resulted in a younger Davie having to flee Glasgow for Aberdeen years earlier. And having now been forced to leave Aberdeen he makes his way to Liverpool, again seeking out and making himself indispensable to the nastiest elements in society. Fate and ill-fortune see Davie move on to become a gun-runner for the IRA in Ireland, and then more widely across Europe: all the time while hoping to forge a good future for his estranged son Max.