Monday, July 19, 2010
Review of Gallows Lane by Brian McGilloway (Pan, 2008)
It took me a little while to get into Gallows Lane. The first 100 pages or so seemed ponderous, and somehow lacking, and I wasn’t sure about some of the police organisation and procedural elements. Slowly, however, I was drawn ever further into the book, all the careful groundwork laid out in the early stages gaining its significance as the various threads are pulled ever tighter. McGilloway’s skill is in the plotting and sense of place. He weaves several subplots in and through each other, although as with Borderlands some of the story is a little over the top, some situations are clearly plot devices, and I had difficulty believing the resolution of two strands. The result is a slow burner that shifts through the gears into a real page turner. He also does a good job of setting the reader in small town Ireland and the landscape along the Donegal/Derry border. Where the book struggles a little, I feel, is with characterisation. Devlin is well drawn and an interesting enough character – a committed family man that seems vulnerable to temptation, prepared to cut corners, occasionally hot tempered and prone to panic attacks. Many of the other characters, however, are underdeveloped. For example, we get little sense of Devlin’s wife, or the principal victims or perpetrators, or some of his colleagues, with little in the way of back stories and motivations. This is partly due to the large cast and partly due to the pacing, where characters are getting little ‘page time’. Regardless, McGilloway’s Inspector Devlin series is developing nicely and I’m looking forward to the next two books. Comparisons are often made to Rankin and Dexter, but I think Robinson and Booth are probably nearer the mark.