Glasgow-born John McAllister’s fiance, Joanne Ross, suffered at the hands of her abusive ex-husband and then was badly hurt, mentally and physically, by a rogue colleague at the Highland Gazette, where she worked as a reporter. Now McAllister’s own life is changed by a request from Jenny McPhee, matriarch of a family of tinkers. Jenny’s son Jimmy, a friend of McAllister’s, has gone missing. Although Jimmy is well able to take care of himself, his mother’s second sight leads her to ask McAllister to go to Glasgow and track him down. There, he meets and is fascinated by Mary Ballantyne, an ambitious young reporter following in his footsteps but with the added advantage of coming from a wealthy, well-connected family. Jimmy is evidently involved in a blood feud with the dangerous Gordon family, and McAllister’s childhood friend Gerry Dochery may well be the man sent to kill him. The prewar glories of Glasgow are well-hidden by bombed-out buildings and extreme poverty. But McAllister, still fascinated by the mean streets of his boyhood home, teams up with Mary to search for Jimmy and dig for dirt on the Gordon brothers and the razor gangs associated with Dochery. When his mother’s flat is trashed as a warning, McAllister whisks her off and burrows even deeper into the case. Concerned by the slowness of Joanne’s recovery and fearful of marriage in middle age, he lets his partnership with Mary and the excitement of the hunt spill over into his personal life, threatening everything he’s built in his Highland home.
Scott (North Sea Requiem, 2013, etc.) incisively sets the middle-aged hero’s struggle to come to terms with his life against the violence of a decaying city and the clean beauty of the Highlands.