Crow Bait by Douglas Skelton

2 Mins read

Davie McCall is in the notorious Glasgow prison, Barlinnie, AKA the Bar-L. He was convicted for a robbery by perjured evidence and given two-and-a-half years inside. Davie is the model prisoner until he’s attacked by fellow inmate Jinky Harris with a Bar-L Special – a toothbrush with inset razor blades – an improvised weapon designed to kill. Davie evades the attack, but seriously harms Harris when the blackness within him bursts to the surface. A prison guard, Lomas, says Davie attacked Harris without provocation and so his initial sentence is increased to 10 years. Ultimately it costs Davie his relationship with his girlfriend Audrey who, until now, was standing by him. Davie is convinced it’s his father, Danny McCall, who wants him dead. The pair have unfinished business. His father murdered his mother when Davie was 15, then disappeared.

It’s 1990 and Davie’s sentence has come to an end. He’s back out on the streets and believes his father is looking for him. When both Harris and Lomas end up dead, the former from a drug overdose and the latter stabbed, the long arm of the law looks to Davie, believing he had a debt to settle. But when a woman is found battered to the edge of death in a scene that’s almost a carbon copy of his mother’s murder Davie is convinced Danny is back to finish what he started. He tries to convince the police but they won’t listen. Only Audrey, now happily married to a copper, and his friends Bobby and Rab believe him. As Danny closes in can Davie save Audrey and himself?

Crow Bait is the second book featuring Davie McCall in what will be a series of four. Unfortunately it’s not entirely a standalone novel. Not having read McCall’s first outing a degree of catch-up was required and several events and actions made less impact than perhaps they could have so it’s probably sensible to read Blood Work first to avoid this potential issue. However, Crow Bait is a compelling, page turning story that builds tension throughout. It is down to earth, gritty and sometimes gory. Grimy Glasgow is a perfect backdrop for the unfolding events. The author, prior to turning to fiction, wrote 11 true crime works and this knowledge shines through in the narrative.

The other strong element is the characterisation. There’s Davie, who battles with his inner darkness; the lunatic Danny; crime boss Rab; strong Audrey, who faces up to perhaps having made a mistake; and many others. Which leads to another aspect of Crow Bait – the multiple perspectives through which the story is told. If you prefer a narrative to unfold via one or two main  characters then Crow Bait, which develops through almost every character, may prove a challenge. There are also some flashbacks in the early stages as Davie recounts his jail experiences. This is necessary as it builds up to the concluding events, but it does break up the flow a bit.

The next novel should be out early in 2015 and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it, but should probably read Blood City first.

Luath Press

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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