Most of Scotland's major cities now boast a fictional detective whose role, at least in part, is to bring to life the seamier nooks and crannies that usually don't feature on tourist websites like this one. Alex Gray's Detective Chief Inspector William Lorimer ably fulfils this role for Glasgow, a city which, as the Monday morning Scottish newspapers reveal on an almost weekly basis, has more seamy nooks and crannies than most, and a reputation for violent crime unmatched anywhere else in the country.
Alex Gray's skilfully woven plot involves the killing by a professional hitman of one victim, and then two more as he seeks to track down the money he was due to be paid for the first. The story is told from the point of view of a wide range of characters, whose different narrative strands are closely woven together: and while Glasgow is neve quite given a voice, it is certainly given a leading role in the story. As a result we are placed in turn in the shoes of DCI Lorimer; of several members of his team; of the mysterious red-headed Marianne Brogan who is apparently at the centre of the intrigue; of her brother, Billy, a drug dealer who has hurriedly left the country with the money owed to the hitman; of the hitman himself; and of many other equally believable characters.
The effect is of a mosaic being laid before your eyes, as different elements fall into place and interconnect. One of the really interesting aspects is that, although you only become aware of some key elements of the intriguing back-story as the book nears its conclusion, it is not really a "whodunnit". That becomes obvious very early on, and there are few secrets from the reader when some of the murders are seen through the eyes of the killer. But with that removed from the equation, the reader begins to focus instead on the "whydunnit": and on who else the hitman, and other shadowy figures who feature in the plot, might kill. Meanwhile you watch the development of the police's investigation as they gradually become aware of what the reader already knows, and as the book builds towards a violent conclusion set against some of Glasgow's very modern landmarks.