The term ‘tartan noir’ might have been coined for Tony Black. Following his successful Gus Dury series, he’s turned his attention to the police procedural and Murder Mile is the second outing for DI Rob Brennan, a complex and brooding character who makes Rebus look positively chipper by comparison. Brennan has a full payload of demons – trouble with his wife, trouble with his superiors, not to mention the lingering taint of a murdered brother. So, when the body of young woman is found strangled and mutilated on the outskirts of Edinburgh he can’t shake off her suffering with the usual professional detachment. Lindsay Sloan was a good girl and Brennan knows what the world does to good people. It grinds them down and punishes them, while it rewards the thugs and back stabbers. He wants resolution for her family, even if it means slamming up against the police machine he is fast coming to despise.
Tony Black has put the heart back into the serial killer novel. It’s dark, yes, and deeply unpleasant in places, as it should be, but he hasn’t played to shock and there’s a refreshing lack of cheap gore. Rob Brennan is the perfect guide to follow through the criminal underworld, a bundle of rage and righteousness, and after reading Murder Mile the next fictional DI you come across will have a lot to live up to.