As her brother Liam tells her, it’s worse than unbelievable; it’s statistically implausible that Maureen O’Donnell would know two people who got killed within six months. Actually, Maureen knows a lot more unlikely people than Ann Harris, the battered wife Maureen’s women’s-shelter friend Leslie Findlay found quarters for all too shortly before Ann vanished, only to reappear sewn up in a mattress tossed into the Thames. There’s Liam himself, a retired drug dealer, and Maureen’s abusive father, now suddenly and suspiciously restored to the bosom of his family. There’s the hopelessly alcoholic mother who starts off her daughter’s adventures with yet another battle over whether Michael O’Donnell really did molest his daughter. There’s the killer Maureen helped nail in her searing debut, Garnethill (1999), still threatening her from the mental hospital he’s trying to get released from. And, when Maureen—stung with pity for Ann’s downtrodden, improbably accused husband Jimmy and the four children who’ll be left homeless if he’s convicted of her murder—travels to London to retrace Ann’s final days, she finds herself up to her armpits in lowlifes, as unsavory barmen, shopgirls, informants, drug couriers, and high-level dealers rush to make her acquaintance. The results are as hallucinatory and nearly as claustrophobic (the worm’s-eye view of London making it look as sorry as Glasgow) as in Maureen’s first outing, but now focused less sharply by a narration less tightly tied to Maureen’s scabrously comical point of view and a story that, however harrowing, isn’t her own.
Dozens of memorable scenes and attendant monsters, but yoked this time to a tangled, forgettable plot.