DEAD MEN AND BROKEN HEARTS by Craig Russell (2012, Quercus, Paperback, 438pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Lennox is looking for legitimate cases – anything’s better than working for the Three Kings, the crime bosses who run Glasgow’s underworld. So when a woman comes into his office and hires him to follow her husband, it seems the perfect case. And, unusually for Lennox, it’s legal. But this isn’t a simple case of marital infidelity. When the people he’s following start to track him, once more Lennox must draw on the violent, war-damaged part of his personality as he follows this trail of dead men and broken hearts.
This is the fourth in Craig Russell’s series about Glasgow enquiry agent Lennox (no first name). Whereas the first three were largely confined to the smog-ridden streets of Glasgow in the 1950s, this time Lennox is involved in two cases with deep plots of subterfuge. The broadening of scope not only extends to the plot but to the setting as we follow Lennox to the Highlands in the book’s latter stages.
Lennox is an interesting character, haunted by his deeds in the war, he is a carefree character, who is beginning to understand the need to have roots and the comfort that can be gained from a steady relationship. But things change in his life that force him to consider returning to his native Canada. But not before he is framed for murder and has to escape police custody in order to clear his name.
The plot elements may sound familiar, but the first-person narrative, again familiar in the genre, is put to good use to create an real sense of mystery around the Hungarian connection and the use of the plot McGuffin being the mystery surrounding a dying man’s last word, “Tanglewood”, is not only pure Hitchcock but evocative of the last James Bond movie, Skyfall.
This is the strongest book in what has been a consistently entertaining, if not overly original, series. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Lennox, although there seems to be a certain amount of finality about the epilogue that suggests it may be.
The other books in the series are:
LENNOX (2009, Quercus, 426pp) ∗∗∗∗∗ Blurb: Glasgow has always been a tough city and it’s getting tougher. Three crime bosses control the mean streets and shady investigator Lennox is the man in the middle. Lennox can be certain of only one thing – in this place only the toughest survive. The McGahern twins are on the way up until Tam, the brains of the outfit, becomes the victim of a vicious contract killing. Tam’s brother Frankie looks to Lennox to find out who killed his twin. Then Frankie turns up dead, and Lennox finds himself in the frame for murder. To prove his innocence he’ll have to dodge men more deadly than Glasgow’s crime bosses if he hopes to survive.
THE LONG GLASGOW KISS (2010, Quercus, 420pp) ∗∗∗∗∗ Blurb: Glasgow in the 1950s – private investigator Lennox is keeping a low profile, enjoying a secret fling with the daughter of shady bookie and greyhound breeder MacFarlane. When MacFarlane is found bludgeoned to death, Lennox is a suspect. Luckily, he has a solid gold alibi – he was in bed with the victim’s daughter. Lennox is quickly drawn into hunting the killer. It turns out MacFarlane was into some seriously dodgy stuff. One of Glasgow’s notorious Three Kings, crime boss Willie Sneddon, is involved and he’s not a man Lennox wants to cross. But there’s an even bigger player lurking in the shadows and it looks like Lennox is going to get his fingers burnt, badly.
THE DEEP DARK SLEEP (2011, Quercus, 358pp) ∗∗∗∗∗ Blurb: Human remains are recovered from the bottom of the River Clyde. Not an unusual occurrence, but these have been sleeping the deep, dark sleep for eighteen years. Suddenly Glasgow’s underworld is buzzing with the news that the dredged-up bones belong to Gentleman Joe Strachan, Glasgow’s most successful and ruthless armed robber. Isa and Violet, Strachan’s daughters, hire private investigator Lennox to find out who has been sending them large sums of cash each year, on the anniversary of Strachan’s most successful robbery. But Lennox’s instincts tell him that this job spells trouble and will take him back in to the dark world of the Three Kings – the crime bosses who run the city. He takes the job nevertheless. And soon learns that ignoring his instincts might just cost him his life. This is the third fantastic thriller featuring shady investigator Lennox as he stalks Glasgow’s tough streets. The Deep Dark Sleep is gritty, fast-paced, and totally absorbing.