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Ferris, Gordon - 'Bitter Water'
Hardback: 364 pages (Apr. 2012) Publisher: Atlantic Books ISBN: 0857896040

Douglas Brodie is a former Army Major who was highly decorated in the War, but now in the hot summer of 1946 is just another civilian who has started a new job on the Glasgow Gazette newspaper writing a crime column. Before the war Brodie was a policeman but following his war experiences he does not want to go back into uniform again and using contacts from before the conflict he has got this new job. Glasgow was heavily bombed during the war and the council is hoping to grant contracts to companies to rebuild it, but there is a lot of corruption in the awarding of these and the general population who are still under the effects of food and general rationing are heartily fed up with it. A pair of masked vigilantes, who style themselves "The Glasgow Marshals" have started summarily dispensing justice, they beat up their victims in a way that appeals to the general public, because all the casualties are despicable people such as prostitutes, bullies, corrupt officials, black marketeers, but soon events take a bad turn and people start getting killed.

The chief of the vigilantes starts contacting Brodie and as a result he is able to write a number of exclusive newspaper columns which improves the circulation of the paper in contrast to its rivals who do not have his contacts. The Glasgow Marshals claim that they are not carrying out the murders but the police are happy to blame them, although Brodie has his doubts.

Brodie and his associate, Scottish lawyer Samantha Cameron, get highly involved in this very fast paced but gripping story. I found this book impossible to put down and and the pages just flew by and I was surprised that I read it all in about two days. The author writes with a good eye for the historical detail and I was transported very easily into the late 1940s and those dreary days of tight rationing of food and other necessities which were so important for life. The story is told in a very witty manner that caused me to laugh out loud at some of the circumstances he described. However, he does use a lot of Scottish idiomatic expressions would be more easily understood by readers in Glasgow or thereabouts but for us poor readers south of the border it is necessary to check them out with Google. The author might want to consider supplying a glossary in the future.

I enjoyed this book tremendously and will definitely look out for his earlier Brody story, THE HANGING SHED. He also has a different series, also set in the aftermath of the Second World War with the protagonist Danny McRae and I had the previous good fortune to read TRUTH DARE KILL, the first story of that series. Both series showcase an author with a huge talent in dramatic characterisation and very tight plotting who has a very bright future ahead of him. Highly recommended.

Terry Halligan, England
April 2012

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 28/04/2012 20:55