Friday, August 5, 2016

Review of The Long Glasgow Kiss by Craig Russell (Quercus, 2010)

Glasgow in the mid-1950s.  A bookie with his hand in a number of pies is bludgeoned to death.  Lennox, a private investigator who’s been known to do jobs for the Three Kings who run the Glasgow criminal underworld, was with the victim’s daughter at the time of the murder.  One of the Kings asks him to look into the case and to also keep an eye on an up-and-coming boxer who is about to fight for the European title who’s been receiving threats.  Lennox balances the job with searching for the missing brother of a famous actress who had thought he had a sure-fire way to get rich.  Lennox keeps stumbling across references to Largo, but nobody knows who he is, though there’s a big-shot American lawman in town also seeking him.  Both cases have Lennox stretched, especially since there are forces at play who’d sooner he dropped his snooping and are prepared to use violence to achieve their ends.

The Long Glasgow Kiss is the second book in the Lennox series.  Russell transplants the PI genre across the pond and adapts it for 1950s Glasgow to good effect.  It helps that Lennox is Canadian, with his street-smarts and fighting skills honed through some of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War and black market in peace time.  As an outsider he can operate across sectarian and criminal territories and he can hold his own in a tight spot, and he can occupy the traditional genre figure that might seem false on a Scot.  Russell though is a native and his knowledge of the geography and history of the city is evident in the story's strong sense of place and time.  Indeed, the narrative captures well the hard edge and criminal underbelly of post-war Glasgow, its social divides and landscape.  In this outing, Russell weaves together a handful of engaging and intriguing plotlines centred around a murdered bookie, a missing man, a new shady operator, and a threatened boxer.  It’s fair to say that there’s a lot going on but there’s never a sense of getting lost, with Russell keeping a firm hand on the tiller leading to a well figured denouement.  Certainly, Lennox manages to get out of scrapes that really should have seen his demise, but one expects as much in tough-guy PI tales.  The result is a taut, entertaining tale that kept the pages turning.  It’s always a good sign when the first thought on finishing a book is, ‘I need to get my hands on the next in the series’.

1 comment:

Anonymous-9 said...

What a great title and a 1950s story is just what the doctor ordered. Two thumbs up from Los Angeles!