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Alex Gray

Canongate £6.99 pbk

Reviewed by Calum Macleod

Alex Gray offers a rather conventional scenario for her first novel. Young women are being strangled and strapped in a Glasgow park. With few leads to the killer Chief Inspector Lorimer is ordered to bring in outside help, handsome Jewish profiler and psychologist Dr Solomon Brightman.
Ever noticed how many of the crime writers dealing with macho old Glasgow are women? And like Manda Scott, Denise Mina and Louise Welsh, Gray presents us with another side to Glasgow, leaving behind the popular mythology of crumbling tenements, sectarian violence and spit and sawdust pubs. True, her murders are brutal, but they are linked to the more urbane world of Glasgow’s flourishing art scene, building up to a showdown at Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s house for an art lover and its maze like garden.
However, it is a shame for Gray that her fellow Glasgow crime writers, and Canongate’s own adventurous crime list, have set such high standards for her to follow. It is an encouraging debut, but lacks the polish necessary to hold its head up with the best of her peers.
Poor editing leaves the reader stumbling over the occasional clumsy sentence, as here on the first page of chapter one: "His gaze returned to the girl’s body. It was out of sight now, its grisly contents concealed in the body bag." Lorimer needs a little more depth if he is to become the threat to Inspector Rebus the cover promises and his relationship with Brightman does get a little too cosy when what is needed is a bit of friction between the two, but the story itself grips and if you allow yourself to be caught up in the story, the 370 plus pages will flash by. For a first novel it is readable enough, but Gray has yet to hit her stride as a novelist.