A gritty Glasgow detective enlists the dregs of the underworld in his one-man war against an untouchably wealthy family.
A punchy prologue recalls the month in 1973 when there were six murders in the city. The story opens on Jan. 1, when detective Harry McCoy, trolling the lowlife informants on his beat, gets a tip that a waitress named Lorna will be killed the next day. Taking his green new partner, Wattie, McCoy goes to the busy bus station closest to Lorna’s restaurant but fails to save her from a frantic teenage hit man who shoots in McCoy’s direction but hits Lorna instead. While fleeing, the young assassin shoots himself in the head. Lorna dies as well. So does Nairn, the thug who gave McCoy the tip, whose body is discovered with his throat slit and his tongue cut out. From that moment on, trouble seems to dog the two-fisted detective. Lorna’s roommate, Christine, reveals that Lorna made extra money as a party girl, “dating” several suspicious characters. McCoy’s probe grinds through Glasgow’s tenderloin, from sleazy clubs to strip joints to a Salvation Army shelter. As more victims pile up, clues from their unseemly murders point incongruously to the highly respected Dunlops, an affluent and influential Glasgow family with deep investments in construction and factories. McCoy sees Wattie as a younger version of himself; the junior detective plays less like a sidekick than a conscience to his older partner.
Parks’ debut novel has an in-your-face immediacy that matches its protagonist. Compelling portraits of minor characters tucked into several scenes add texture and interest.