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Johnstone, Doug - 'Hit & Run'
Trade Paperback: 272 pages (Mar. 2012) Publisher: Faber and Faber ISBN: 057127045X

Following on from last year's truly awesome SMOKEHEADS, Doug Johnstone has done it again. This time, with HIT & RUN: a tasty wee nightmare set in Edinburgh. The language is crisp and punchy, the story has you trapped and unable to escape (not that you want to, mind) and, if you live in Edinburgh and are familiar with the setting, it gets you thinking about possibilities and locations and wont let you go. Such was my involvement in this tale that I dreamed about it too. A surefire way to become one of my favourite authors is to write a novel that messes with my head.

In brief, Billy is drunk, stoned and driving. He has his girlfriend and brother in the car and they are going home from a party. In an attempt to avoid the police he drives through Holyrood Park and hits something in the dark. Stopping the car in a panic, Billy sees the 'something' is a man and the man is lying in the road. Billy's brother, a doctor, checks the man and says he is dead, so they pick him up and move him into the trees at the side of the road, then drive on.

The next day Billy, a trainee crime reporter for a local newspaper, is called on to cover the story of a body that is found in Holyrood Park. Feeling like death after his wild partying, he fuels himself with more drugs and sets out. To his initial relief the body isn't where he had dumped it, so he thinks it can't be the same one, but the horrible truth sinks home when he catches a glimpse of the very same shoes and socks he had touched a few hours before. The man can't have been dead and must have moved himself a few hundred metres, before collapsing and dying for real.

Billy dithers over what to do now. He must cover the story for his job but the pressure of knowing he really should have contacted the authorities earlier, and definitely should come clean now, combined with the number of drugs he starts taking to get himself through the day, starts to take its toll. Helplessly, the reader watches Billy, who is a likeable, decent young lad with a bright future ahead of him, descend into emotional turmoil and meltdown.

One of the many excellent things about Johnstone's books is that you know things don't necessarily end well. If you like it pink and fluffy, then this author is most definitely not for you. As Billy's situation goes from bad to worse, you wonder just how bad it will get. You have plenty of adrenalin coursing through your veins as you hope against hope things will be OK, but have a sinking feeling that they might not...

If you like your crime fiction black, then you are going to love this book. I have a feeling that I have just read my top book for 2012.

Extremely highly recommended.

Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
May 2012

Amanda blogs at Old Dogs and New Tricks.

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 24/03/2013 08:26