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Friday, 6 February 2015

‘Riven’ by A J McCreanor

Published by Constable,
23 October 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-1230-9 (HB)

Scottish crime writers seem set fair to corner the market in the gritty, graphic style of murder mystery, and this Glasgow-based account of the investigation of a particularly nasty case will almost certainly be the first of a series.

D I Kat Wheeler suspects McMafia involvement when a reclusive child psychologist is found battered to death and suspended from a hook by a couple of his youthful clients – but there’s no proof, and every alibi seems to stand up. A second death appears to involve Kat’s student nephew, but again there’s no proof.

As Kat and her sidekick acting D I Ross pick their way through various leads and meet nothing but dead ends, the Glasgow underworld is looking after its own, in several senses.

The result is a grim, abrasive story which takes in violence, drug peddling, the lasting effects of child neglect, feuds within the police force and a lot of background and character development which are no doubt intended to contribute to future volumes in the series.

It’s not for the faint-hearted; the language is robust and the descriptions are explicit, especially of dead bodies and uncared-for homes and children. The front-line police officers have their own problems, and each deals differently with the stress of the job.

Sometimes there’s a little too much information; the narrative would be tighter and sharper, the pace brisker and the prose crisper with fewer background details and less stating of the obvious. But these are first-novel problems, and there’s nothing which can’t be fixed further down the line by a good editor. McCreanor creates some interesting characters; even the minor ones, such as the first victim’s prickly mother and a couple of teachers in last-chance schools, come across loud and clear. He knows his Glasgow too, from the benign middle-class suburbs down to the squalid back streets.

There’s certainly a series in the making here, and I’ll be interested to see how it develops.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

A J McCreanor was born in Glasgow and after university taught English in various secondary schools in inner Glasgow. In 2011 she won first prize for crime fiction writing at the Wells Literature Festival. She now lives in Glastonbury with her husband, two cats and one dog.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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