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by Alex Gray
Sphere, May 2007
320 pages
ISBN: 1847440266

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Accountants seem to get bad press for being boring and grey-suited. After reading Alex Gray's THE RIVERMAN, you might decide it's not a profession to recommend to your friends and family if they value their life!

Duncan Forbes appeared to have led a blameless life. But when his dead body is fished out of the River Clyde in Glasgow, and his wife is told he was having an affair, what looks like an accidental death provides Strathclyde Police with a far-ranging murder enquiry.

I never quite know what to make of Alex Gray's books. She's being touted as Glasgow's answer to Ian Rankin. All I can say is that the blurb writers might want to read a little more widely in the burgeoning Scottish crime fiction scene!

Like Gray's earlier books, THE RIVERMAN has a good central story, this one featuring our dodgy neighbourhood accountants. But even though Gray feels like she's doing all the right things, in the end the book is rather a plod (no pun intended!) There's a spark missing somewhere.

I think the problem is that we never really care about her lead characters in the same way we do for Rebus and Siobhan, or for Denise Mina's Paddy Meehan. The cop hero, DCI Bill Lorimer, and his shrink sidekick Solly Brightman just aren't that fascinating.

And it's not helped that the book is told from quite a few points of view. Focussing on Lorimer and one other person might have ensured we got closer to the main characters.

If you read the previous book in the series, SHADOWS OF SOUNDS, you'll recall that Bill's teacher wife Maggie was on an exchange trip to America. She's home again, but some of the threads set up last time are simply ignored this time out, and there's a really annoying angle where Maggie is convinced her husband slept around while she was abroad and it's the kind of clumsy plot device that could have been solved, shock horror, by having two characters actually bothering to talk to each other.

Speaking of which, the book's new American angle seems promising at the start, but soon becomes a bit dull. Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up the book. The ending's OK, but by then I was sort of drifting and not that engaged with what happened. The whole book felt like an excuse to include all the research Gray had found out about the real-life riverman.

I seem to recall complaining last time out about some inaccuracies in the portrayal of journalists. This time out Gray could have put the riverman to one side for a moment and done some homework on what a D Notice is and how it relates to the media.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, May 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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