Source: Review copy
Publication: 25 March 2021 from Sphere
My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review
Inspector Daniel Kohi of the Zimbabwean police force returns home one night to find his worst nightmare has been realised. His family dead, his house destroyed, and in fear for his life, he is forced to flee the country he loves.
Far away in Glasgow, DSI William Lorimer has his hands full. Christmas is approaching, the city is bustling, and whilst the homicide rate has been relatively low, something much darker is brewing. Counter-Terrorism have got wind of a plot, here in Lorimer’s native city, to carry out an unspeakable atrocity on Christmas Eve. They need someone with local knowledge to help them root it out and who better than the head of the Scottish Major Incidents Team.
But the investigation is complicated by a spate of local murders, and by the rumours that someone is passing information to criminal organisations from inside the police force. Soon Lorimer finds himself in desperate need of assistance. Then he meets an extraordinary man – a refugee from Zimbabwe whose investigative skills are a match for Lorimer’s own . . .
My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review.
Its ages since I read a William Lorimer novel and I’d forgotten how warm and welcoming they are. This one especially, amid the murders and bombings is full of the warmth of human kindness and is all the better for it.
Sometimes it’s good to read a police procedural where the cop in question isn’t riddled with angst, hard drinking and hiding a deadly secret. Bill Lorimer is a senior policeman, happily married to Maggie and after an eventful career, is now heading up the Major Incident Team and idly musing on whether or not it is time to think about retiring.
First though, he has a serious problem to resolve. Someone has been leaking the identity of his undercover agents, placing them in jeopardy and forcing them into stepping back from that work.
Daniel Kohi used to be an Inspector in the Zimbabwean Police but has now fled Zimbabwe after the murder of his wife and child, following his refusal to join in corrupt activities. He is now a refugee, hoping to achieve settled status and eventually be allowed to work. He’s just arrived in Glasgow, knowing no-one but has at least been allocated a flat to stay in.
On his way to find his accommodation, he witnesses something suspicious in a lane just off Hope Street and his police instinct kicks in. He wants to know more, but first he must find his bearings and get to his accommodation.
As Lorimer seeks to discover who is the leak in his department he is also hearing from Acting Chief Constable David Mearns that there is covert intelligence about a possible terrorist attack in Glasgow and that makes finding the leaker even more pressing business. When the body of a murdered man, first stabbed and then burned, is discovered and it turns out he was an employee of a law firm which Lorimer has under observation and into which he has put an undercover agent, he knows he has to make this a high priority.
DS Sylvie Maxwell is the undercover agent at Thomas Bryson solicitors, put there because the firm is suspected of handling funds that are being channelled into terrorist activities. DI Graham Brownlee is the lead officer on the case of the murdered man and can’t understand why Lorimer is taking such an active interest in his case.
Meanwhile Daniel has found his new accommodation and though it’s a bit grim, to put it mildly, it has the benefit of being next door to the wee Glasgow wifie that is Netta. All patter and welcome, she has Daniel in and on his first cup of tea before he knows what’s happening.
Alex Gray’s novel takes us on a journey that encompasses the experience of refugees, loan sharking, terrorism and the extraordinary danger that police personnel are sometimes placed in when seeking to prevent atrocities. It’s an exciting mix that makes for thrilling reading.
Knowing that he has a clearly well-placed leak inside the higher echelons of Police Scotland, Lorimer takes an unorthodox route into making sure his enquiries are kept on the down-low and thus it is that once their paths have connected, both Daniel Kohi and the redoubtable Solly Brightman are drafted in by Lorimer to assist. It may not be strictly by the book, but Lorimer knows who he can trust and puts his faith in these men.
As a date is put on the most likely timing for a bombing, the pressure is on Lorimer to quickly gather the intelligence he needs and it is a tense and dramatic time which is only exacerbated by a vicious attack that strikes at the heart of Lorimer’s fears.
Alex Gray does an excellent job of portraying Daniel Kohi as an intelligent, likeable and perceptive policeman and it would be a real delight if her were to gain his settled status and find a role in future books. Daniel has clearly made a positive impact on Maggie and Netta, as he does on all the women he meets, and its time we had a bit of love interest around!
Verdict: A police procedural infused with great characters and a fine sense of place. It is an engaging read which, while it deals with some quite terrible subjects, nevertheless leaves the reader with an overwhelming sense of warmth and humanity. And goodness knows we all need some of that right now!
Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the DHSS, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English. Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles and commissions for BBC radio programmes. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing. A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, her previous novels include Five Ways to Kill a Man, Glasgow Kiss, Pitch Black, The Riverman, Never Somewhere Else, The Swedish Girl and Keep the Midnight Out. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.