Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
family outing at the seaside is shattered, not by violence but by suspense and
a presentiment of outrages to come. Our emotions are engaged from the outset:
there is shock as a couple of foul-mouthed lechers accost a mother and child in
the sand dunes, heartfelt relief at the approach of the father, followed by
trepidation at his vulnerability confronting armed villains, finally awe at
their backing down. Then you realize that the potential rapists were no more
than rabbits in the face of a tiger.
Francis has an intriguing past. The reader learns it by degrees, the rabbits,
suddenly. Rage is the identifying feature of this man, landing him in prison
for manslaughter, rage now sublimated to the harmless but lucrative art of
sculpting the busts of celebrities, mutilating them and selling the results to
the sitters. In California Jim is a rich and successful artist, happily married
with two cherished little girls. Back home in Edinburgh, before the last
stretch in prison, he was Frank Begbie, a middle-aged recidivist mentored by
his appalling grandfather Jock: raised as a thief and drugs runner, amoral,
treacherous, sadistic, and a killer at thirteen.
is little philosophy in this book, only action and raw Scots dialogue. In
Edinburgh Begbie has three children by different women although one son, an
addict, has been murdered in a sleazy tenement. His father, observing
tradition, comes home for the funeral only to be beset by the family demanding
he find the killer. But Frank has found redemption in prison; through
counselling and his arts teacher (whom he married) he has conquered his
dyslexia, discovered books and learned to control his rage, although well aware
that, like an alcoholic, he is always on the cusp of chaos.
Edinburgh, in the opulent mansions of the gangster super-rich, in the squalid
tower blocks and deserted docks the inevitable happens and the family man from
California: seductive lover and father figure reverts to pit bull but
manipulative and hypocritical: a post-modern anti-hero.
breaks all the rules. Where his Scots vernacular is colloquial, his English is
carefree. He changes tense from one paragraph to another. He gives new meaning
to words. He gilds the lily in demonstrating that this is a hard man who
doesn’t kill but decimates people. Violence is pervasive and predictable, the
climactic tortures so ingenious they are reminiscent of a cookbook.
novel that will enthral the media and fans of “Trainspotting”. One shade of