Publisher: Red Dog Press (29 Nov. 2020). ISBN: 978-1913331962
Well this book was a great surprise. I absolutely loved it. Three quirky sisters, a detective agency, a troublesome client and the backdrop of Glasgow just to finish it off. What’s not to love? I read it in two days, because it was just so much fun I couldn’t put it down. Now all I need is for someone to turn it into a Sunday evening series starring Kelly McDonald, Laura Fraser and Jessie Buckley and I’ll be content.
Martha is the eldest sister, slightly frumpy and very much a mother figure for her two younger sisters, Helen and Geri. She is dependable and the real business-like sister who keeps the agency ticking over. Helen is more of a mystery, but certainly has brains as the academic of the outfit. It turns out she’s also a very able dancer when she’s had enough to drink. Geri brings youth knowledge to the team as she’s the student of the trio. She may lurch in like she’s had no sleep, but she’s very sharp and knows how to use social media to the agency’s advantage. They’ve been requested at the home of Tracey Coulthard, who lives in a very smart home in a wealthy suburb of Glasgow. They arrive to find a maid, May, who is very worried about her employer who seems to be overwrought. They can hear screams and smashes coming from the bedroom. Mrs Coulthard is in bed crying, naked from the waist up and the fact that people are in her bedroom doesn’t seem to faze her at all. She offers the sisters £20,000 to find out the truth about her husband Gordon and his ‘extracurricular’ activities. This is the Parker sister’s meat and drink, most of their work is detecting whether partners are being unfaithful. However, the level of distress from this particular client is worrying Martha particularly. What might she do if they find out something she doesn’t want to hear? Martha senses a whole lot of trouble packaged alongside that cold hard cash.
The sisters manage to get themselves invited to a party for Gordon Coulthard’s company. Helen throws herself into the fray and Geri starts getting to know Gordon’s right hand man. As usual though, the sister’s don’t investigate quietly. Helen proceeds to get blind drunk and get a little over familiar with guests. In trying to find out more about Gordon, Martha ends up in a brawl with a statuesque blonde called Estelle who seems to be claiming that Gordon is her fiancé. She does indeed have a huge diamond on her finger and Martha is horrified, especially when Estelle starts dragging her round by her hair. As she fends her off, Martha tries to fathom why he would get engaged when he’s still married and be so open about it? This will mean the girls having to break the news to Tracey, setting in motion a chain of events that will end in murder.
I loved how the sisters worked in conflict, but somehow in unison. As Martha feels responsible for Tracey and what’s happened, Helen and Geri point out that they’ve done what they were paid for and can withdraw from what is becoming a media circus. Martha struggles a bit with the physical aspects of the job, leading to some amusingly clumsy moments. When chasing a suspect she falls through the fence they’ve just jumped over and when listening at a skylight she manages to fall straight through! More seriously, she runs up several flights of stairs to Coulthard’s penthouse and ends up in hospital with chest pain. I loved how Martha berates Geri for being ‘friends’ with Gordon’s colleague, but has to take it back when she realises how thoroughly she’s been stalking him on social media. I also enjoyed the introduction of Detective Pope, a stern Glasgow cop whose wheezing can be heard from the next room. Despite the asthma, she’s a tough customer and seems to be the sensible figure, there as a counterpoint to the sister’s madcap romp through this case. Yet, I could see an affinity growing between them, particularly Pope and Martha whose scenes are filled with sarcasm and wit. I’ll be interested to see how this develops.
Despite a few twists and turns, I did solve the case before the end, but I’m not sure it was meant to be a complex puzzle. This was an introduction to the sisters and their dynamic, and I will certainly be looking forward to their next adventure. This was was a wild ride that didn’t let up as the sisters were pulled from one side of Glasgow to the other. There’s no time to breathe, with the wheezing Pope almost collapsing in their wake. There’s just enough of a sprinkle of Christmas in the background too. I think there’s much more to come from Helen, and so much more about the Parker’s lives outside the agency. I thought this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with incredibly engaging characters and so much promise for the series to come.
Meet The Author
J.D. Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster. After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste – with everything in between. He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC. Banking on Murder is the first of three Parker sister novels. They follow his hugely successful HellCorp series. His debut in 2015 was the critically acclaimed Morbid Relations.