Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by Liam McIlvanney
Faber & Faber, August 2009
329 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0571239838

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Gerry Conway is a journalist on the Tribune in Scotland. Like most of the print media, it's floundering badly, with a hitman editor brought in to try to turn its fortunes around.

Gerry's the political editor, with Peter Lyons, the rising star of the Scottish Parliament, firmly in his pocket. But that cosy relationship is threatened when a photo surfaces of Lyons in paramilitary gear. Gerry sets off on the trail of a story which takes him to Belfast and uncovers old wounds left by the Sectarian violence of the past and secrets which people will kill to keep hidden.

ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN is assured and readable debut novel. It explores a link we don't get too much that of Scotland's role in the Troubles. McIlvanney Professor of Scottish Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand is the son of William McIlvanney, author of the tremendous Laidlaw series (much-neglected gems of Scottish crime fiction) and one of the greats of north of the border writing.

The book turns an eagle eye on Scottish politics, the legacy of the troubles and the decline of the print media. Conway is ostensibly your usual divorced hack who drinks too much. But, refreshingly, he's not superman either, so although he's tenacious in pursuit of a story, he's also an ordinary bloke with faults.

ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN isn't disposable crime fiction; rather, it's slower-paced and thoughtful. At times McIlvanney seems to be striving slightly too much for effect. And there are some slightly weird glitches with tenses most of the story is told in the past, but occasionally he swings into the present for no apparent reason, which is mildly disorientating.

In the end, though, the pacing is the only thing that lets down a highly impressive book. Once you're past the rather laboured first few chapters, the book picks up speed. But it flags again towards the end when things are wrapped up with a little too much tell and not enough show. I'm not sure whether McIlvanney reckons he's writing genre fiction, but the ending lacks a thriller's necessary pace. But by then the author's done enough with this sharp, intelligent novel to keep the reader on-board.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, January 2010

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]