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BUTCHER
by Campbell Armstrong
Allison and Busby, July 2006
340 pages
14.99GBP
ISBN: 0749081414


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lou Perlman is a Glasgow Jew who gets twitchy if he strays too far from his native city. If you like British TV cop show Taggart ("ah'm gonnae get him fur mairrrrder!"), you'll lap up Campbell Armstrong's BUTCHER.

Perlman's a rumpled cop who's currently on sick leave after stopping a bullet in a previous book (this is the third in the series and on this evidence the other two are well worth searching out). But he's in disgrace after speaking up in court in favour of his sister-in-law Miriam, and won't be welcomed back with open arms.

Miriam, meanwhile, has gone swanning off round Europe, leaving Lou uncertain as to where they stand romantically -- and he starts to worry when her postcards suddenly stop. His aunts are clucking around solicitously, and send over a cleaning lady to help him get his shambolic home into some sort of shape.

But when he and hippy cleaner Betty McLatchie make a gruesome discovery in his tip of a bedroom, things aren't looking too hot for Lou.

Add together Betty's missing son, a New Age gangster with a guru and big ideas, a mad 'surgeon', a recluse and his pet ferret, and you have one hell of a good read.

Lou's a wonderfully lugubrious character -- the kind you can imagine Ken Stott playing. And around him Campbell has created a memorable supporting cast, with all sorts of cops and lowlives popping in and out for neat cameos. Reuben Chuck, the gangster with some contradictory values in his private life, is a decidedly nasty bit of work.

The fact that Chuck is trying to grab the top position in Glasgow's underworld is giving police plenty to think about. A trail of body parts around the city, thanks to this mysterious 'surgeon' isn't helping either.

This is the Glasgow you see in Denise Mina's books -- dark, dingy, violent and with people barely existing. The best scenes are those in Dorcus's house, with the creepy Nurse Payne (and the faintest hint of woo-woo which had me looking over my shoulder when the lights flickered), and those in Tarkatower's squat.

Armstrong is a masterful writer, with a gift for storytelling and pacing, and an eye for detail -- the little ferret with his shampooed coat was my personal favourite. BUTCHER is a must-read if you like tough, gritty crime fiction with a memorable hero.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, July 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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