Source: Review copy
Publication: 31 January 2019 from Canongate
Bodies are piling up with grisly messages carved into their chests. Rival gangs are competing for control of Glasgow’s underworld and it seems that Cooper, McCoy’s oldest gangster friend, is tangled up in it all.
Detective Harry McCoy’s first day back at work couldn’t have gone worse.
New drugs have arrived in Glasgow, and they’ve brought a different kind of violence to the broken city. The law of the street is changing and now demons from McCoy’s past are coming back to haunt him. But vengeance always carries a price, and it could cost McCoy more than he ever imagined.
The waters of Glasgow corruption are creeping higher, as the wealthy and dangerous play for power. And the city’s killer continues his dark mission.
Can McCoy keep his head up for long enough to solve the case?Bruised and battered from the events of Bloody January, McCoy returns for a breathless ride through the ruthless world of 1970s Glasgow.
Reading February’s Son is like taking a grand tour of the mean streets of 1970’s Glasgow, primarily through its drinking dens. From The Variety to Mallons to the Muscular Arms, by way of the St. Enoch Hotel, this is No Mean City with added inside cludgies and a facsimile of veneer.
It doesn’t come a whole lot darker than this and yet the Glasgow humour finds a way through as well as the clear understanding that it doesn’t matter who you are in this city; it’s where you came from and who you grew up with that counts.
February’s Son follows on in timescale just three weeks after Bloody January, the first McCoy book. It can easily be read as a stand-alone, but for the full picture, I’d read them as a series.
DI Harry McCoy is barely out of his sick bed after the gruelling events of Bloody January, but here he is ready to lead the investigation into the brutal, stomach-churning murder of young Charlie Jackson, a footballer who was stepping out with Elaine Scobie, the daughter of noted gang leader, Jack Scobie. McCoy doesn’t have to look far for the perpetrator; Kevin Connolly was a henchman of her father’s now gone rogue, seemingly psychopathic and has formed a deep obsession for Elaine.
Elaine herself doesn’t seem too concerned, but this killer is on a rampage and as more disfigured bodies turn up the police can’t quite believe they haven’t caught him yet.
Meanwhile, the suicide of a homeless alcoholic known to McCoy brings back deeply buried unpleasant memories for McCoy and he and his boyhood chum Stevie Cooper are soon on a mission of their own which will take McCoy to the blackest place he has ever been.
McCoy straddles the very fine line between being a decent cop and a corrupt cop at one and the same time. This time though, he may just have gone too far as his demons are driving him to depths it may be hard to come back from. And if he hasn’t, Stevie Cooper has battles of his own to fight, too and it’s hard to see how he and Stevie will reconcile their respective societal roles. Quite how McCoy’s influence will play out on the keen shiny detective Wattie, with his hero instincts remains to be seen, but isn’t necessarily boding well.
In February’s Son Parks has created a despicable and violent series of crimes. The narrative all comes from McCoy’s perspective with some allusions to the killer’s rambling and disjointed thoughts. The major criminals are starting to supply drugs and the hard men are just getting harder and more brutal as they jockey for power.
Amidst all of this, Parks creates a series of beautifully drawn characters in McCoy, Wattie and Stevie Cooper as well as the Record reporter, Mary who leaps off the page. To complement these characters, Parks has created a complex, twisted set of intertwining murders that really want to make you close your eyes to their descriptions. Violence abounds on every page and the language is appropriate to that.
If it sounds bleak, it is because it is the grimmest of pictures of Glasgow, yet it is immersive, riveting, and forceful. And, somehow, at the end, it’s just a wee bit emotional. This is writing that sucks you in and doesn’t let go.
Verdict: Bloody brilliant. Could not put it down. A must read for 2019
Alan Parks was born in Scotland and attended the University of Glasgow where he was awarded a M.A. in Moral Philosophy. PHe still lives and works in the city. He has spent most of his working life in music. From cover artwork to videos to photo sessions, he created groundbreaking campaigns for a wide range of artists including All Saints, New Order, The Streets, Gnarls Barkley and CeeLo Green. He was also Managing Director of 679 Recordings.