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by Alan Parks
Europa, March 2018
336 pages
ISBN: 1609454480

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There's something about Glasgow in the sleet and snow that fits perfectly with a the noir genre. Add the fact that it is 1973 when the town was all empty broken-down factories, with drugs everywhere, and you have the setting for BLOODY JANUARY, the first in a series of novels by Alan Parks.

Park's protagonist is Harry McCoy, 30, a newly promoted police detective. McCoy was a Catholic foster kid, with a whore for his girlfriend and a notorious gangster for a friend.

The novel opens in Barlinnie Jail where one of the cons in a special unit warns him that a girl named Lorna is going to be killed. Six days and six killings later, McCoy is unraveling a complicated plot involving the Dunlops, a rich duo of father and son. Enter the big bosses raging about this "right royal shitestorm" and calling McCoy off the case.

When he wakes up in the hospital, after suffering a beating so punishing that it is hard for us to read, we seen that we are in for lots of blood and gore as McCoy gets closer to untangling this puzzle of a case.

McCoy is a likeable guy. We find ourselves sympathizing with his deep hatred for the rich and privileged, the people the shite rolls right off. Glasgow is a town divided between the Catholics and the Frees (Protestants). The horror of the events that surround McCoy, who hates the Catholics almost as much as the frees, finds himself making the sign of the cross and uttering prayers for the dead, and for himself as he finally takes on the worst of the villains in a terrifying ending..

The number of characters that Parks introduces and the complexity of the plot he creates is a bit daunting for the reader. But the nastiness of scenes in prison, in empty factories, and under the railroad arches contrasts nicely with the debauchery of an orgy at Broughton House, the Dunlop's house of pain.

McCoy manages to hurt the rich of both religious persuasions by destroying a merger in the works, and most of the evil ones are dead, and our hero, Harry McCoy survives without demotion. We are left wondering why he is almost unmanned by the sight of blood: such a tough guy with such an odd weakness. His hatred of the Church also causes him to feel dizzy and weak. How come? We await the solution to these mysteries and his next cases with anticipation.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, March 2018

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