The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin

The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin was published in 2021. William McIlvanney died in 2015, this book features the character DC Laidlaw in his first case. The earlier books earned McIlvanney the title ‘father of Tartan Noir’, but this book was unfinished on his death so Ian Rankin completed it.

The setting is of course Glasgow, it’s 1972 and gang warfare is a way of life for some people. When the body of a tame lawyer with links to a gang is discovered in a lane behind a pub in a rival gang’s area it looks like a simple case to solve as far as DI Milligan is concerned and he has already decided the outcome of the case. The young Laidlaw is starting off his career as he continued it, being a thorn in the flesh of whomever happens to be his boss. The investigation takes place over six days.

I believe that the manuscript was discovered by McIlvanney’s wife after he had died and it was only half completed, so Rankin wrote on from midway. I read the original Laidlaw books way back in the 1970s when they were first published but haven’t read them since then. I enjoyed the atmosphere of 1970s Glasgow, I was a teenager back then and Glasgow was my destination a couple of times every week, but I wasn’t completely grabbed by the plot of this book and it’s very male-heavy character wise, but I suppose that is very true to the times, the females are wives or girlfriends. Thank goodness nowadays we can have Siobhans!

Two from Ian Rankin – Rebus

I’m really behind with my book thoughts and as I’ve read two books in Ian Rankin’s Rebus series recently I thought I’d just give them a quick mention.

 Set in Darkness cover

Set in Darkness was first published in 2000 and it’s the 11th book featuring DI John Rebus. The setting is of course Edinburgh where the very historic Queensberry House is undergoing refurbishment as part of the devolved Scottish Parliament administrative offices. A partially mummified body is found behind a boarded up fireplace. It looks like it has been there since the last work which was undertaken in that area, some 20 odd years ago.

Then there’s what appears to be the suicide of a homeless man, but it turns out that he had hundreds of thousands of pounds. Why was he living on the streets and did he really kill himself? It’s all go when a prospective MSP’s body is found. Somehow they’re all linked. This was a good read and as ever I enjoyed the Edinburgh setting.

 Resurrection Men cover

Resurrection Men was first published in 2021. This one ranges around Scotland from Edinburgh to Stirlingshire, Perthshire, Fife and Dundee.

Rebus has had a bit of a meltdown and thrown a cup of tea at his boss Gill Templar. The result of that is that he has been sent to Tulliallan, the Scottish police training college for a bit of a refresher course and to have some sessions with a psychologist. Rebus isn’t the only one who has been sent back to school. There’s a group of senior officers who are all there for similar reasons, but it transpires that Rebus has been asked to befriend the others as they’re suspected of being ‘right bad yins’ and Rebus needs to get the evidence. Rebus isn’t sure if he’s being set up by his superiors or if it’s for real, either way it’s a dangerous situation for him. The cold case that they’ve been given to re-open as part of their team building happens to be one in which Rebus was involved, and he’s not happy about that at all.

Meanwhile Siobhan, Rebus’ sidekick is investigating the murder of a wealthy Edinburgh art dealer who had a link with one of the prostitutes in a massage parlour, which in turn might have links with Ger Cafferty, the Mr Big of the Edinburgh dark side.

There’s a lot more to it but, you get the idea I’m sure.

I love that I know all the locations of these books so I’m not sure how much that influences my enjoyment, mind you with the bad guys in this one coming from the west of Scotland I did slightly roll my eyes!

The Hangman’s Song by James Oswald

 The Hangman’s Song cover

The Hangman’s Song by James Oswald is the third book in his Inspector McLean series.

Edinburgh’s police headquarters is in chaos as the ongoing restructuring of Scotland’s police forces has meant that Chief Inspector Duguid – or Dagwood as he is sometimes known as is the temporary boss. McLean has a very low opinion of Duguid and the feeling is mutual. Duguid is piling lots of extra work onto McLean and at the same time is removing officers from his cases, sending them on needless training courses at Tulliallan police college.

However when a series of hangings take place in the city there are enough odd details to make McLean feel that they are anything but the straightforward suicides that Duguid insists they are.

McLean is having as much trouble with his work colleagues as he is with the investigation, jealousy is leading some of the more immature in the force to play stupid but expensive pranks on the financially independent McLean and at times he does wonder himself why he is bothering to remain in the police force. Luckily for us he realises that that would be giving in and doing just what his colleagues want.

I’m really enjoying this series which should be read in order but I agree with Jack that it could do without the spooky elements which really don’t add anything.

If you want to read what Jack thought about this book, have a look here.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.

Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie / and William McIlvanney

I went straight from reading Blyton’s Famous Five books to Agatha Christie and it is decades and decades since I read any of her mysteries (apart from a slim volume called Black Coffee which was originally a play and was worked up into a book by Charles Osborne.)

I’ve seen quite a few people have been reading Christie so when I saw this one in my library I thought I would give it a go and see if I still found her work to be enjoyable. It was quite a surprise to me that I did enjoy this one as I had read a few snidey newspaper articles, basically saying her books were only for those of little intelligence and even smaller vocabulary. I had seen a version of this book dramatised for TV but I think it was quite different from the book. You’ve probably seen it too but the book is still worth reading. It’s a Poirot and Hastings book, the tale being told by Hastings and of course Inspector Japp pops up too, but his character is somewhat less chummy and amusing than the Japp of TV fame.

I thought that crime fiction fans might be interested to read the William McIlvanney article which appeared in today’s Guardian. I loved his books when they were first published in the 1970s. He managed to capture the atmosphere of Glasgow in print, which is more than can be said of Denise Mina whose books are set in Glasgow but are completely devoid of any Glaswegian class, gallusness and banter, something which I find unforgivable as a Glaswegian myself. McIlvanney is apparently the forgotten man of Tartan Noir, what a shame. He inspired Ian Rankin to write his Rebus series, transferring the setting to Edinburgh, the city which he has experience of.