Written by Neil Broadfoot — This debut novel was recently shortlisted for the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year alongside the likes of Peter May, Louise Welsh and Chris Brookmyre. In that company, it certainly has a lot to live up to. No problems there, for Falling Fast is a book that grabs you by the throat from the start and doesn’t let go until you reach the acknowledgements page.
In just three short opening paragraphs, Broadfoot throws his reader into a maelstrom of a storyline. From the top of an unspecified structure, an unnamed woman falls to her death. Suicide or murder? It is the first calamity in a far-reaching domino effect that has the power to destroy myriad reputations and lives.
The opening chapter continues with a description of the aftermath of the girl’s fall, and its effect on bystanders is so vividly sketched that it will burn itself onto your retina. It provides a firm foundation upon which to build a story, and as the plot thickens we are gradually introduced to a range of characters who at first appear to have no connection to each other whatsoever – although that is all likely to change before the tale is told.
What is clear, however is that local crime reporter Doug McGregor and his police officer contact and friend DS Susie Drummond will stop at nothing to get to the truth. You can’t really call this pair a team – he’s press and she’s a copper, after all – but when they do get together their combined skills produce some pretty spectacular results.
McGregor is the linchpin of the story, and as an former local reporter himself Neil Broadfoot shows he certainly has the inside track by creating an authentic portrayal of the good and bad sides of being a journalist hot on the trail of a cracking exclusive story. It soon becomes clear that the dead woman was Katherine Buchan, daughter of controversial local politician Richard Buchan. He’s known to all by the nickname Far Right Marmite, because of his reactionary views that divide the population. As Doug and Susie dig deeper, they discover that the on-the-face-of-it quiet and retiring Katherine was hiding no end of juicy secrets, foremost of which is… what possible connection could she have with reviled rapist Derek McGinty? It’s a question that has Doug buzzing, because he was on McGinty’s trail up until the sex offender disappeared off the radar following an attack by a lynch mob at his new home, following his release from jail. Could McGinty have been in Edinburgh at the time of Katherine’s death?
It is hard to find time to take a breath as the action gathers pace in the final few chapters of this is gritty and no holds barred debut thriller which definitely deserves its place in the aforementioned Deanston award shortlist. From the off, the author gives you the chance to study the story from all sides – whether it be that of the victim, the onlooker, family, friend or investigator. This fragmented effect is somewhat kaleidoscopic, but when the pieces fall into place, the result is spectacular.
Scotland is choc-a-bloc with top crime writing these days, but there’s no doubt that newcomer Neil Broadfoot has already got his feet under the top table and is planning to stay there. I’m sure Doug and Susie will be back, and I’d like to be part of the welcoming committee when they arrive!
CFL Rating: 5 Stars