Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words
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Allan Guthrie developed a taste for writing at school. He is now the author of five award-winning novels. When not writing Allan is a literary agent and co-founded the e-publisher, Blasted Heath. Born on the Orkney Islands, Allan now lives in Edinburgh with his wife.
Joe Hope sorts problems out, usually by the application of violence with a baseball bat, on behalf of his loan shark boss, Cooper. But for once it’s Joe that has the problem, first his daughter, Gemma, commits suicide. Joe immediately flies to the Orkneys where she’s been living at a writer’s retreat with a relative, Adam. But as soon as he arrives Joe is arrested. The accusation? The murder of his wife, battered to death with Joe’s work tool.
But, there are further complications, Gemma kept a diary in which she’d revealed the reason behind her death – she’d been raped by someone she called ‘Daddy’. But for once Joe is innocent and he sets out to track down the killer.
This is a straightforward, no-nonsense, high quality crime novel which focuses on anti-hero Joe Hope. It’s a well plotted, well written and a very satisfying read. One of the strongest aspects of this novel are the characters. All are well drawn, believable and have a part to play.
First is Joe himself. He’s not the most pleasant of people, sorting out non-payers on behalf of Cooper, often beating them senseless. Joe even keeps a baseball bat in his car. He has a terrible relationship with his wife and instead spends time with a prostitute, Tina (Joe pays her, but interestingly it’s for no more than company) or in the dubious company of Cooper, seemingly his only friend. But despite everything he does have a degree of morality – Joe won’t kill people – interesting, considering murder is the crime he’s accused of. Also of note is that Joe is clearly intelligent, he had been taking a degree before dropping out to work for Cooper, who himself was training to be a lawyer.
Which leads us to Cooper. He’s thoroughly unpleasant and loyal only to himself, and maybe his young son. No one else matters. Tina the prostitute is an interesting character, literally hard-nosed and lived a tough life. They’re ably backed up by Adam (who’s initially wet and useless, but finds some backbone) and Joe’s youthful lawyer, Ronald Brewer.
The plot is also very strong, several story arcs brought together for a satisfying conclusion where everyone gets what they deserved. Joe receives several shocks (on top of the suicide and murder) and perpetually seems to be in an almost constant state of turmoil and flux.
The story is mainly set in Edinburgh. It’s seedy and grim, but then again the characters themselves live this kind of existence – loan shark, thug and prostitute. The scenes suit the narrative. The pace is high and maintained throughout, it’s a real page turner and enjoyable to boot (or should I say bat).
Swearing and violence.
Rating: ***** 5 Stars