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by Alex Gray
Sphere, April 2009
368 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847441947

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I'm still having difficulties getting a handle on Alex Gray and keep thinking I should be enjoying her books more than I do. She's a good writer, but she's being pushed too hard to be something she isn't no way does she do for Glasgow what Ian Rankin does for Edinburgh.

Her hero is DCI Bill Lorimer, aided and abetted by his schoolteacher wife Maggie. In GLASGOW KISS they both play an equal role in the investigations, as a colleague of Maggie's is accused of raping a pupil who then disappears.

The school scenes are by far the best of the book, as Gray has a sharp eye for the way teenagers speak and behave. And one of the threads involving abused teenager Kyle Kerrigan is far stronger than the 'official' sub-plot where police are investigating the disappearance of a toddler.

The book could do with less rhapsodising prose and more dialogue to move it along. A sharper edit would help as well Lorimer's tame shrink friend Solly's beard waggles sagely rather too often. And Gray resorts too often to one of those dreaded lazy writing techniques 'had she but known that . . .' Some of her journalism-related scenes are rocky and would benefit from some better research. And surely social services would have been called in long before Kyle's father came out of prison.

To be honest, Lorimer is rather grey and dull. And none of his colleagues stand out as people you'd want to get to know better. The fact that most of the characters lack shade and depth keeps the reader constantly at arm's length.

What stops a competent book being better is the ponderous nature of Gray's writing and the fact that everything is in black and white. Psychiatric hospitals are shiny happy places. Colleagues who don't like the saintly Eric Chalmers are seen by Maggie as Very Nasty People. And both the main plot and sub-plot are tied up with breath-taking ease, speed and triteness.

I'll give Gray another go, but her books have moved into last chance saloon for me.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, April 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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