The April Dead by Alan Parks.

NO ONE WILL FORGET . . .

In a grimy flat in Glasgow, a homemade bomb explodes, leaving few remains to identify its maker.

Detective Harry McCoy knows in his gut that there’ll be more to follow. The hunt for a missing sailor from the local US naval base leads him to the secretive group behind the bomb, and their disturbing, dominating leader.

On top of that, McCoy thinks he’s doing an old friend a favour when he passes on a warning, but instead he’s pulled into a vicious gang feud. And in the meantime, there’s word another bigger explosion is coming Glasgow’s way – so if the city is to survive, it’ll take everything McCoy’s got . .

I was lucky enough to be on the blog tour for the third book in Alan Parks’s Harry McCoy series, so it was a real treat to be able to read this one straight away, back to back. This is real Sottish Noir at its best as we follow a new case for Harry, in the crime ridden streets of 1970s Glasgow. I visit Glasgow a lot, and love its galleries, architecture and museums but this isn’t touristy, post-City of Culture, Glasgow. This city is grimy and dangerous, plagued by violence from criminal and sectarian gangs. Harry grew up in these rough, tenement areas of the city and it’s where his friendship with Steve Cooper started; back in their childhoods way before Harry became a police officer, and Stevie went in a very different direction. Harry’s loyalty to his old friend, means that he’s there at the prison gates when Steve gets out after a six-month stretch inside. Steve’s position as the boss of a criminal enterprise means he has to pick up where he left off – looking for whoever betrayed him. Loyalty is vital to an organisation like Steve’s and he won’t rest till he knows where the leak is. No matter how much he still feels like the big crime boss he always was, things have changed. Harry drops him at his old council flat knowing that even his own loyalty may be called into question.

The case Harry investigates is one of a bombing, not that unusual in the 1970s as the sectarian troubles in Ireland spread over to the mainland. However, the IRA’s targets are usually more illustrious than a flat in Woodlands. The only casualty seems to be the bomber with his remains scattered around the property. This is usually a job for Special Branch, so Harry is shocked to find it falls to him, and his sleep deprived colleague Wattie, to investigate. Wattie has become a father and is an easy target for DCI Murray. Murray thinks Wattie isn’t up to the job and Wattie begs McCoy for support, especially when the DCI piles a murder investigation on top of his other work. To make things worse for Harry, the prime suspect in the murder is Steve Cooper. Harry is well and truly in the middle, trying to keep the peace and his loyalty to many different people at once. His main concern is that there will be a bigger bomb, a more public target, and a long list of casualties. When this happens, Harry finds his loyalties called into question again, this time from a Special Branch officer who thinks McCoy may have connections to the IRA.

This investigation will lead Harry into the past, and a history of British military atrocities committed as the empire collapsed and beyond. The bomber follows an old army leader with murderous loyalty, and Harry stumbles across terrible hidden truths. The dark, atmospheric house in the country will stay with me, it’s terrible secrets never known until now as Harry uncovers evidence of torture and killing. Have these horrible acts ended though? Or is someone still carrying out killings in this terrible place? As if Harry doesn’t have enough to do, he’s also charged with finding a missing son of an ex- naval captain. Donnie Stewart was based in Scotland following in his father’s footsteps in the navy, but now he’s gone AWOL. His father travels to Scotland from retirement in America, keeping the pressure on Harry to leave no stone unturned looking for Donnie.

There is so much going on here, and so many loose ends to chase. However, one of the things I love about this series is that the author doesn’t just focus on the plot. He puts the characters and the intricacies of their relationships front and centre too. The relationship between Steve and McCoy is particularly interesting, especially in this instalment where pressure is placed on them both. It’s very interesting to see how Harry balances his job upholding the law, with his loyalty to his friend. Steve drags him into the fight with another crime boss, trying to use Steve’s recent time in prison as a chance to muscle in on his patch. This stretches Harry to his limits and place some edge into their relationship. Yet there is still that sense of a long held friendship that allows some black humour to creep in, even when the stakes are high. McCoy has a similar rapport with his colleague Wattie, but also some sensitivity too. He empathises with Wattie’s position as a new dad, and shows his concern. This is a sensitivity that spills over into his dealings with Donnie Stewart’s father too. I had the sense this wasn’t just being a good police officer, it was a softer side to Harry that maybe had something to do with getting older. What I loved most though is the author’s love of the wonderful city of Glasgow, in all its dark and dirty 1970s glory. He highlights the social injustices of the city, and the wry humour of its people. I would highly recommend this series to anyone who loves crime fiction and I look forward to May in the series.

Check out the other bloggers on the tour and their thoughts on The April Dead.

Meet The Author

Before beginning his writing career, Alan Parks was Creative Director at London Records and Warner Music, where he marketed and managed artists including All Saints, New Order, The Streets, Gnarls Barkley, and Cee Lo Green. His love of music, musician lore, and even the industry, comes through in his prize-winning mysteries, which are saturated with the atmosphere of the 1970s music scene, grubby and drug-addled as it often was. Parks’ debut novel, Bloody January, propelled him onto the international literary crime fiction circuit and won him praise, prizes, and success with readers. The second book in the Harry McCoy series, February’s Son, was a finalist for a MWA Edgar Award. Parks was born in Scotland, earned an M.A. in Moral Philosophy from the University of Glasgow, and still lives and works in the city he so vividly depicts in his Harry McCoy thrillers.

Published by thelotusreaders

Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

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