Bite-size reviews of books by Richard Osman, Alan Parks, Taylor Jenkins Reid and Johnny Gogan
Thriller: May God Forgive by Alan Parks Canongate, 371 pages, hardcover €20.99; e-book £6.99
Glasgow detective Harry McCoy’s investigation into an arson attack on a hairdressing salon, which has left three women and two little girls dead, is made more complicated when the three teenage suspects have to be rescued from an angry mob baying for their blood.
The city goes wild when the police van driving them to prison is rammed by a truck and the youths are bundled into a car and spirited away. The next day, the body of one of them is found dumped in the city centre. He has been tortured and stabbed to death. A note sent to a newspaper says “one down, two to go”.
Harry must act quickly but is not at his best. He has just returned to work after recovering from a severe stomach ulcer, but is finding it hard to resist what appears to be the staple diet of Glaswegian society, alcohol and deep-fried everything. Through his contacts among the lower reaches of Glasgow’s criminal world, which include his alcoholic homeless father, McCoy soon establishes that the arson victims were unintended collateral damage of a vicious turf war between two criminal gangs. Much to his frustration, it proves impossible to bring charges against anyone, but McCoy has his own way of seeing that some kind of justice is done. This fifth Harry McCoy thriller takes Tartan noir, at which Alan Parks excels, to a darker shade of black than before. Violent, amoral and atmospheric.
Fiction: The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
Penguin, 448 pages, paperback €12.60; e-book £5.99
The TV presenter is a latecomer to the world of fiction. His first book, the whodunit The Thursday Murder Club, was published while he was in his late 40s and has been nothing short of sensation. It’s sold more than a million copies in Britain alone and this follow-up did similarly massive business in hardback.
Like the first, it concerns a group of oldies in a retirement village who have a Miss Marple-like knack for solving crimes. This one centres on Marcus Carmichael. A letter is received from him but, wait, didn’t he die 40 years ago? Or was the name a pseudonym for someone else? A perfect holiday read for those who loved the first book.
Thriller: Station to Station by Johnny Gogan
Lepus Print, 220 pages, trade paperback €13
Junior Irish diplomat Jack Lennon is dispatched from his posting in Madrid to keep an eye on Irish government minister John Paul Grealish at a conference in Cadiz in Andalusia. But Grealish gives him the slip, rashly appoints local winemaker Don Patricio Velasco O’Reilly — whose ancestor was one of the Irish ‘Wine Geese’ — to be an honorary Irish consul and appears to be up to his neck in a corrupt property deal that involves former Nazis given shelter by General Franco. It’s 2008 and the wheels are coming off both the Irish and Spanish property booms. As Jack and his new girlfriend Teresa Paz try to corral the corrupt minister, chaos ensues. An engaging oddity.
Fiction: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Penguin, 400 pages, paperback €12.60; e-book £3.99
Hot on the heels of her Fleetwood Mac-inspired bestseller Daisy Jones and the Six — currently being filmed for an Amazon Prime TV series — comes another US saga set in the recent past. This time it’s August 1983 and the gilded lives of the four children of rock-star Mick Riva. Eldest child Nina, a swimsuit model, is throwing an end-of-summer party in the family’s Malibu beachfront mansion and everyone who’s anyone is there. There’s quite a bond between the siblings, but trouble comes calling, and by midnight the party is out of control and the Riva home is about to burn down. Jenkins Reid skilfully weaves the story of one eventful night with the family’s troubled past.