We read a lot of Tartan Noir, and we like most of what we read. Some of it we like very much indeed. But we'd have to admit that the number of Scottish crime novels we read that are truly memorable is not so large. "For Those Who Know the Ending" by Malcolm Mackay is so outstandingly good that when we turned the final page we knew it was a book we'd remember for a long time to come. It's also a book we will probably want to read again, if only to understand more fully how the author has deployed so many familiar ingredients in a way that has resulted in such a truly fresh, delicious and compelling offering.
Martin Sivok has come to Glasgow from the Czech Republic because his life there as a professional gunman made him just a few too many enemies, and he had to leave while he still could. He wants a fresh start in a city that offers a complex interplay of competing criminal enterprises. There have to be opportunities for someone with his very particular skill set, but no-one knows or trusts him, and life is proving hard. It is harder still because fate has offered him the possibility of domestic happiness that had eluded him at home. Then he is offered a job by Usman Kassar, a loud youngster living on the fringes of Glasgow's criminal underworld. The only problem is that the job will put them up against the Jamieson organisation, one of the city's most dangerous outfits, even with their leader in jail. More particularly it will put them up against Nate Colgan, the "security consultant" for the Jamieson organisation, and one of the most widely feared men in the city.
There is so much to admire about "For Those Who Know the Ending". The title is a direct reference to the fact that we start the book at a point in the story which is set not much more than an hour before it concludes, 340 or so pages later. Most of what lies between relates how the nerve-jangling situation with which the book begins and ends comes about. Everyone reading the book can therefore include themselves amongst those "who know the ending". Yet despite this, Malcolm Mackay succeeds in injecting an astonishing amount of tension into the build-up to the books' conclusion. The reader finds themself hoping against hope that the seemingly inevitable outcome can somehow be averted; that the author has kept something back that will allow just a spark of light to enter this dark and deeply grimy underworld. But you know what they say about lights at the ends of tunnels...
Beautifully written with a complex and engaging plot and deep and believable characters, this is a book we'd wholeheartedly recommend. It comes complete with a 3+ page cast list at the beginning which is a little off-putting, and unnecessary to the enjoyment of the story. We'd suggest you skip it and dive straight past to find Martin, on page one, tied up in a chair, in a warehouse, waiting to be killed.