A ne’er-do-well Scot inherits a mansion.
Joe Staines never had much of a family. His Polish grandfather, Josef Wisniewski, leaves him a new British name (picked at random off a map of Scotland) and very little else. His da works too hard to have much time for Joe or his brother, and when his ma takes to drink and disappears, his da tells his sons she’s dead. Small wonder that young Joe takes up with Lachlan Stoddart, a schoolmate who’s shunned by most other kids as fat, slow, and greedy but one who offers the chance to spend afternoons at a home stocked with endless treats: video games, remote-control cars, and free-flowing cash provided by two indulgent parents. Guthrie Stoddart is the reputed head of a gang that makes that cash by selling protection, but it’s Lachlan’s ma, short, squat Isabella, who strikes fear into wee Joe’s heart. Jump ahead a few years. Guthrie’s disappeared. Isabella’s dead. So is Lachlan, who leaves the remainder of the Stoddart fortune to his old pal Stainsie. Attorney Charlotte Spencely reminds him that a pile of debts must be settled before he takes possession of the estate’s main asset: a large house in Edinburgh’s Trinity district. But Joe’s not one to stand on ceremony. When Marianne, his girlfriend, chucks him out with a bucket of mop water, he breaks into the Trinity house—which after all will be his when all the legal folderol is done—and dosses down there. Breaking and entering, even into a house he has some prospect of owning, puts Joe on the wrong side of Old Bill, and soon he’s facing his old pal DS Danny Jamison, who’s perturbed not only over the deaths of Isabella and Lachlan Stoddart, but that of a young girl whose body is squirreled away in a window seat of Joe’s fine house.
Told in a series of flashbacks and fast-forwards, Kelly’s tartan noir debut is less a mystery than a shaggy dog story with a hero well worthy of the starring role.