Written by Bill Daly — Double Mortice is the much anticipated sequel to the gritty Glasgow procedural Black Mail, and sees the return of long-in-the-tooth DCI Charlie Anderson, still one step away from retirement. It’s a compelling tale that shows us Glasgow’s face of affluent gentility as well as the violent underbelly of a modern city.
Michael Gibson is a rich, successful and married lawyer – with the inevitable mistress on the side – who finds his outwardly charmed life falling apart. His mistress is demanding he divorces his wife, Anne, but she refuses to cooperate. Meanwhile, a dark incident from his shady past threatens his career and reputation. With Glasgow’s most notorious psychopath, Jack MacFarlane – whom Gibson failed to defend in court – due for release from prison, Gibson’s life is set to implode.
Things couldn’t possibly get much worse, but they do when Gibson discovers his wife’s dead body. However, when goes to report the crime to the police, her corpse disappears with no evidence remaining of the crime. Gibson begins to question his own sanity. The gruff DCI Charlie Anderson is drawn into the case, whose investigative skills are thoroughly challenged. Is this is a case of abduction, suicide or murder?
For a police procedural series to gain a solid readership, the central police protagonist must be a credible character. With the stoic and dry witted DCI Anderson, Daly achieves this in spades. Anderson cuts an imposing figure throughout. Tall and broad, with the inevitable policeman’s paunch and a slight stoop, he has built his career on a personal credo of hard work and determination. Along with his sidekick, the less worldly DS Tony O’Sullivan, Anderson carries the weight of the narrative effortlessly in what proves to be a perplexing tale of adultery, murder and greed.
Victim Michael Gibson, meanwhile, is a typical oily and unlikeable lawyer. It’s rather enjoyable seeing this privileged and successful member of Glasgow’s elite being put through the wringer. Equally, Daly balances the book beautifully with an additional plot strand concerning psychotic headbanger, Jack McFarlane. He takes us into the lower echelons of Glasgow society with his earthy language and colourful use of the local vernacular. It’s a storyline that easily weaves in and out of the main plot. The strength of the characterisation, combined with Daly’s exploration of the differing life experiences and circumstances of the characters is a real hook throughout.
Then there’s the uncertain fate of Gibson’s wife, Anne, which proves a real thorn in Gibson’s side as he plans to set up home with his comely mistress. Daly cleverly inveigles you in this mystery, tugging away at your deductive skills to solve this baffling crime at the same pace as his detectives. It’s a rare treat to be intimately involved in a less linear investigation, to have it hold your interest, and to be able to then finish the book feeling either eminently satisfied at being outwitted, or rather smug at having worked it out for yourself. Stories in some of the long established police procedural series do make us feel too comfortable in knowing how the investigation will progress and be resolved, so it’s good to have a host of blind alleys and red herrings thrown into the mix.
On an increasingly crowded Tartan noir bookshelf, Daly is carving out a nice niche for himself. After introducing his well-realised police characters, supported by an engrossing plot in Black Mail, with Double Mortice he continues this series admirably. I have no qualms in recommending Daly as a great new writer to discover for yourself.
Old Street Publishing
CFL Rating: 5 Stars