Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.
Douglas Brodie is dead. The Glasgow Gazette’s ace crime reporter decided to escape the hangman’s noose by killing himself after being on trial for murder. The four mourners leave the graveside; his mother, Agnes, his feisty lawyer girlfriend, Sam, Wullie McAlister, his work colleague and his friend Stewart. The case is closed and dead men tell no tales. Or do they?
We then go into flashback to the events leading up to the funeral told in first person narrative by Brodie himself. An ex Det Sgt in the Glasgow police force, ex decorated Colonel, he’s still trying to find his place in post war Glasgow. But what’s he really looking for is the thrill of the chase. He admits that he’s a junkie for excitement and so, when Lady Sheila Gibson sends for him, Brodie doesn’t hesitate or question. A glamorous damsel in distress, she knows how to play on Brodie’s reckless streak. Sir Fraser Gibson, her husband, has been kidnapped and a ransom of £20,000 has been demanded. Brodie agrees to deliver the money to the kidnappers and ends up embarking on a treasure hunt around the city as various street urchins and a ferryman give him hand written clues to his rendezvous.
But, as he finally enters the kidnappers lair, he’s attacked from behind and awakes with more than a headache.
Sir Fraser Gibson is lying on the floor nearby with a bullet hole in his forehead and Brodie’s gun has been fired once. There will be no chance for Brodie to prove his innocence as Chief Inspector Sangster has been waiting for this opportunity to finally destroy Brodie after their encounter on a previous case. And now it looks as though he’s succeeded. But someone is determined to prove him wrong even if they have return from the dead to do it.
I enjoyed the first Brodie novel, The Hanging Shed, and it was a welcome return for me to be part of Brodie’s world again. This is rumoured to be the final part of the Brodie story but I wouldn’t write him off just yet.
Ferris evokes the drab, austere post-war Glasgow very well. Barefoot children playing in the street, tenements and bomb sites; the inhabitants surviving as best they can on ration coupons while financiers discuss the Marshall Plan. This was America’s aid programme for the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War. There’s money to be made from it and Brodie finds himself embroiled with corrupt bankers and dodgy deals.
Glasgow’s apparently respectable upper society and its links to the criminal underbelly are convincing and realistic. One cannot survive without the other it would appear and Ferris delves deep into this world. There’s also a corpse who isn’t all he pretends to be. Brodie is a likeable, well-rounded, character as are his extended and memorable circle of helpers; Airchie the willing helper and Eric the ferryman. Even Sticky, the disabled serviceman plays his part even if you wouldn’t want to examine his wares too closely.
Gallowglass is a deftly plotted novel with more twists and turns than a game of snakes and ladders.
At times I did get lost in the Glaswegian dialect but on the whole it added to the atmosphere. The Hanging Shed was an assured debut and this latest Brodie novel confirms Ferris as an interesting and entertaining writer.