"How a Gunman Says Goodbye" is the second book in Malcolm Mackay's Glasgow Trilogy. Although it picks up where "The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter" left off, there is no need to have read the first book in order to enjoy the second. And enjoy it you most certainly will. The author strips away many of the elements that we have become used to in Tartan Noir to leave a chillingly compelling narrative that drives you ever forward towards a conclusion that is as unpredictable as it is, with hindsight, inevitable. The result is a superb novel that leaves you feeling ever so slightly complicit in the events you witness which such a remarkable immediacy, and ever so slightly breathless at the pace with which it moves.
The sense of immediacy is in large measure down to the author's use of the present tense, aided and abetted by his very pared down use of language. The result feels in some ways less like a novel than it does a fly-on-the-wall documentary filmed with a jerky handheld camera.
The book starts with a list of characters, of the sort we might normally expect at the beginning of a play. You are likely to find yourself referring back it repeatedly as the story develops and as members of the cast appear and disappear (sometimes very permanently) with what might otherwise be bewildering speed.
At its heart this is a story about two gunmen. Frank MacLeod was the best gunman in the city until he was laid low by a hip operation. Now he's back, keen to prove he is as good as ever. Calum MacLean is the young gun, in some ways Frank's protege, who was the central character in the first book in the series. He is good, perhaps as good as Frank was at his best, but is only reluctantly accepting he is a now a member of crime boss Peter Jamieson's empire. Frank is sent out on a job by Jamieson, but things do not turn out as planned, and the result is an ever more rapidly rotating swirl of events that changes the lives of many of the characters for ever. We are promised the third in the trilogy, "The Sudden Arrival of Violence", in January 2014, and very much look forward to it.