Friday, March 30, 2012

Review of The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson by Douglas Lindsay (Piatkus 1999, reprinted by Blasted Heath, 2011)

A serial killer is at work in Glasgow sending a body part through the post to the victim’s relatives. The case has Chief Inspector Robert Holdall and his sergeant MacPherson vexed. The madman’s exploits vie for attention in a local barber shop, along with football and general pish. Barney Thomson resentfully works the chair furthest from the window, the other two operated by Wullie Henderson, the owner’s son, and Chris Porter, who is several year’s Barney’s junior. When on form, Barney cuts like a maestro, but lately he’s lost his form and customer’s seeking his services are dwindling. To make matters worse his wife is a soap opera addict that barely notices him and his aging mother has dementia. In his fantasies, what Barney would love to do is kill Henderson and rightfully reclaim the window seat and his dignity. And the local serial killer would like to help.

The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson is a comedy noir, thickly laced with black humour. The story is not particularly complicated, but is very well told, and there are three strong twists in the book that the rotate the plot ninety degrees each time to good effect. The dialogue and wit (or talking pish in the books terms) in the barber scenes is excellent, as is the running commentary on the soap operas Barney’s wife watches, and the banter between the detectives. I laughed out loud several times, especially in the first half of the book. The characterisation was spot on and despite being one of life’s losers it’s difficult not to take to Barney and his ill-judged decisions and morose approach to life. If there are any television producers reading this, in my view, the book would make a very good two-hour comedy drama. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, The Cutting Edge.


Ron Smyth said...

Not an author with whom I'm familiar but sounds like one I would thoroughly enjoy. I'll be looking for this book.

Fiona Johnson said...

I just love it when someone enters the comically depressed world of Barney Thomson. Keep reading and see how this character develops!