Source: Review copy
Publication: 30 August 2018
Against a background of brutal attacks on people and property by a rag-tag group of homeless men whom the media quickly dub Berserkers, DI Will Harlan is juggling with a head-in-a-bucket patricide, a lethal wife-swapping session, a sex-tape scandal involving the Royal Scottish National Orchestra – and perhaps most discomfiting of all – a spate of late night phone calls from his favourite serial killer, Howie Danks.
As the wife-swapping investigation spirals into a glut of cold-blooded slayings carried out by a mysterious pair of killers known as the Wasp Queen and the Priest, Harlan has to look into the past where a cold case may contain uncomfortable answers. But it’s in the present where the real danger lies as he follows a twisted path of mind control and madness leading to a cruel land some call the Wasp Latitudes.
I plunged straight into Wasp Latitudes immediately after reading Heart Swarm, such is my appetite for the character of D.I.Will Harlan. Allan Watson manages to neatly combine a dark and grisly world view with lots of bodies, violence and nasty, squirmy, stuff and then to layer that with a wicked sense of humour that keeps the whole thing elevated above the darkness.
Sometimes I stop and wonder what goes through an author’s mind when their books are as dark as this one, and then I shudder and resolve not to think about it anymore. I like to tell myself that if its going on the page, it’s getting the outlet that is so clearly required.
Wasp Latitudes is one heck of an inventive crime thriller. With more dead bodies than the massacre at the Little Big Horn, this book starts out fast paced and ends up frenetic, leaving the reader gasping for breath.
This time DI Harlan not only has to contend with the perpetrators of a series of gruesome crimes, he also has to cope with the endless interference of the Serious Crimes Unit treading all over his feet.
It starts out well enough, the day. The Bersekers, a group of people carrying out seemingly random acts of mindless violence are now being hunted down by the Serious Crime Squad so are not Harlan’s problem. Then a nice wee operation in George Square to sniff out a blackmailer ends up with Harlan being given a new nickname and becoming a reluctant You Tube star. And then, to make matters worse, he is caught up in an altercation at the bar of his hotel in front of his daughter and her boyfriend.
The next day isn’t much better. In the midst of dealing with three suspicious deaths he is called in to see the Serious Crime Unit, and is suddenly face to face with his old partner, DS Cara McAulley and her boss, DCI John Roan. Soon he’s being questioned about the bar brawl and before he knows what’s happened, Serious Crimes have nicked one of his murder cases from under his nose.
Then we have a cast of diabolical characters, hard men, psychopaths and worse with a series of unpleasant deaths that are not only gruesome and very smelly, but reminiscent of some kind of blood ritual slaughter.
Combined with wife swapping, sexual blackmail, revenge and obsession, this is the kind of book that grabs you and doesn’t let go. Like a rat down a drainpipe, D.I. Will Harlan won’t stop until he finally works out what’s going on and why.
With a little help from an old acquaintance, he gets on the right track – but will the price he has to pay be too high?
Edgy, unpredictable and utterly consuming this is the Glasgow underworld writ large with an additional helping of sex and horror, mixed in with a dry, scathing wit.
Verdict: My kind of book and a great follow on from Heart Swarm. Watch out for the sting in the tail.
Amazon (where it is currently only 99p!)
About Allan Watson
Allan Watson is a writer whose work leans towards the dark end of the fiction spectrum. He is the author of seven novels – Dreaming in the Snakepark, Carapace, The Garden of Remembrance, 1-2-3-4, Monochrome, Heart Swarm and Wasp Latitudes.
In between the books, Allan wrote extensively for BBC Radio Scotland, churning out hundreds of comedy sketches, in addition to being a regular contributor for the world famous ‘Herald Diary’.
He occasionally masquerades as a composer/musician, collaborating with crime writer Phil Rickman in a band called Lol Robinson with Hazey Jane II whose albums have sold on four different continents (Antarctica was a hard one to crack)
Allan lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland, but has never worn the kilt or eaten a deep fried Mars Bar. He also once spent three days as a stand-in guitarist for the Bay City Rollers, but he rarely talks much about that…