Source: Review copy
Publication: 13 April 2023 from Pan Macmillan
Murder is nothing new in the Depression-era city, especially to war veterans Inspector Jimmy Dreghorn and his partner ‘Bonnie’ Archie McDaid. But the dead man found in a narrowboat on the Forth and Clyde Canal, executed with a single shot to the back of the head, is no ordinary killing.
Violence usually erupts in the heat of the moment – the razor-gangs that stalk the streets settle scores with knives and fists. Firearms suggest something more sinister, especially when the killer strikes again. Meanwhile, other forces are stirring within the city. A suspected IRA cell is at large, embedded within the criminal gangs and attracting the ruthless attention of Special Branch agents from London.
With political and sectarian tensions rising, and the body count mounting, Dreghorn and McDaid pursue an investigation into the dark heart of humanity – where one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, and noble ideals are swept away by bloody vengeance.
I loved Robbie Morrison’s Edge of the Grave, so you could hear my squeals of joy all the way down the Clyde when I received a proof of Cast A Cold Eye.
Our protagonist is Inspector Jimmy Dreghorn. He is a Catholic in an almost wholly Protestant force. Dreghorn served in the First World War and it is an experience that hangs over him like a suffocating cloud of despair; it’s what we now call PTSD but for Jimmy it’s nightmares, cold sweats and horrifying flashbacks in moments of trauma.
His partner ‘Bonnie’ Archie McDaid is a Highlander and a former Olympic wrestler. He resembles a large mountain bear and he adds much needed good humour to the pair’s outings. These are the good guys alongside W.P.C. Ellen Duncan who has masses of grit, a lot of common sense and who is the subject of the kind of misogyny that the Met seems to excel in these days.
I love Robbie Morrison’s writing. His prose style is fluid and descriptive, but the book is also tightly plotted and each scene has a clear place in the narrative. He brings 1930’s Glasgow alive and perfectly captures that mix of grit and humour that is in every Glaswegian I know. I found that I kept smiling as I came across phrases that I remember from my childhood, married to places either long gone or in some cases, re-named but still standing.
The authenticity is brilliantly done and his vivid characters stand out like a black and white drawing. This is an authentic portrait of a city and its people. There’s not a lot of romanticism here though. Cast A Cold Eye, as its title, borrowed from Yeats, suggests, is a story about Irish grievances spilling over into Scotland, where sectarianism does more than live, it thrives. Even in the police force where the Orange Order may as well hold lodge meetings in the canteen and where McDaid’s Catholicism stands out like a sore thumb.
In a place where politics and criminality too often go hand in hand, this explosive mix brings a new level of violence to the mean streets of the dear green place. With Special Branch officers camping in Glasgow but keeping their agenda close to their chests and the Police determined to mete out their own justice, the situation is tense on the streets and in the station.
There’s plenty of action, a great deal of death, much violence and a lot of double dealing to contend with in this fascinating and fantastic novel from a real writing talent. I loved Edge of the Grave and am thrilled to say that Cast A Cold Eye is, if anything, even better. I absolutely loved it and it gets a ‘must read’ seal of approval from me.
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Robbie Morrison was born in Helensburgh, Scotland, and grew up in the Renton, Coatbridge, Linwood and Houston. On both sides, his family connection to shipbuilding in Glasgow and the surrounding areas stretches back four generations and is a source of inspiration for the Jimmy Dreghorn series. One of the most respected writers in the UK comics industry, he sold his first script to publishers DC Thomson in Dundee at the age of twenty-three. Edge of the Grave, the first Jimmy Dreghorn novel, won the Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Novel of the Year, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger, and the Fingerprint Awards Debut Book of the Year, and longlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown.
One thought on “Cast A Cold Eye (Jimmy Dreghorn #2) by Robbie Morrison @robbiegmorrison @panmacmillan”
Sounds like this has a “Peaky Blinders” vibe. Great review.