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Ferris, Gordon - 'Pilgrim Soul'
Hardback: 320 pages (Apr. 2013) Publisher: Corvus ISBN: 0857897608

This is the third in a series featuring Douglas Brodie and set in Glasgow shortly after the Second World War. During the war, Douglas was a major in the army, but he now has a job working as a reporter for the Glasgow newspaper The Gazette, and he has a relationship with a lawyer, Samantha Campbell. Of course as a reporter, he has the opportunities to investigate and report on various happenings in Glasgow, from the banal to the serious (a murder or two). I'd not read the previous books in this series, but it didn't matter because one is quickly immersed in the characters, and briefly brought up to date with previous events as necessary.

The story starts simply enough. Douglas is asked by the Jewish community in Glasgow to catch a thief, and to help him decide, they offer a decent monetary incentive. Nine different houses have been broken into so far, and the police don't seem minded to do anything about it. After interviewing all the robbery victims, it quickly becomes apparent that each robbery was preceded by a visit from the Gas Board, and this then leads on to identifying the robber as a man called Paddy.

Job done, you might think, but in effect this small job is just a mechanism to introduce various members of the Jewish community into the plot, and before long, this small job swiftly develops into something more sinister. Before the police manage to catch the thief, he is caught trying to open a safe by a Lithuanian Jew called Galdakis, and stabbed to death. Shortly afterwards, the pawn-broker and fence for the stolen items is found murdered, and the story starts to become a lot more complicated than just a simple burglary.

Tied in with this is an invitation from an old friend, Iain Scrymgeour for Samantha's involvement in the Ravensbrück War Criminals Trials in Hamburg. While the details are unclear, this news immediately takes Douglas back into his submerged memories of interviewing various camp guards and the like, as a result of his proficiency in German, at the end of the war; the same people now facing trial. The novel then follows the plight of the Jews in Glasgow, the trials of their German captors in Germany, escape routes and avoidance of justice, with the action moving to Germany, and then back again to Glasgow.

Apart from the complex storyline, the story is fleshed out with much in depth discussion ranging from thoughts and feelings about the war, persecution of the Jews (and others), establishment of the Palestine state, and the war crimes trials, all of which appears well researched and convincing. Brodie is an interesting, dogged character, not afraid to get into dangerous situations in his attempts to uncover the truth. There is also an interesting brevity to the style of writing, and particularly the dialogue that is somewhat reminiscent of the Chandler novels (and the main hero, Philip Marlowe). I quickly became immersed in this book, and very much enjoyed it, so much so that I've already started to read the earlier books in the series. An intelligent, thought provoking story that I thoroughly recommend.

Read another review of PILGRIM SOUL.

Michelle Peckham, England
May 2013

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 1/09/2013 11:19