on 10 November 2012
This book features the character Douglas Brodie who was first introduced in the author's previous book, `The Hanging Shed'. I read and enjoyed the previous book, but not this one. It started fairly well but lost direction mid-way through. From that point the storyline was dragged out and I found it hard work to finish the book.
There are many references to The Hanging Shed and although this book could be read as a standalone novel, you may find these continual references to the previous story annoying, especially if you haven't read it. Reading this book first would also mean you wouldn't want to subsequently read the previous one as you would have a good idea of the plot, including how it ends.
The storyline is quite unbelievable. Brodie is supposed to be a war hero, so you would expect him to be able to look after himself, but the way that professional killers fail to kill him at least twice in this book is ridiculous. A number of other aspects of the storyline defy belief.
The storyline is also very predictable with no twists or surprises as it drags along to its inevitable conclusion.
The book ends with a "shoot `em up" gunfight but even that failed to raise interest levels for me as it dragged on page after page. Again, the outcome was difficult to believe. The Hanging Shed ended in a similar way; for me there was a definite feeling of deja-vu throughout the last 100 or so pages of this book.
I found this book a big disappointment as I though The Hanging Shed showed a lot of potential but the author has failed to further develop the characters or come up with a convincing storyline to follow it up.
on 6 May 2012
I read The Hanging Shed in three days, Bitter Water has taken me slightly longer but it was gripping.
I have to confess to living up the road from Douglas Brodie's Mum's house and can picture it so I loved his visits there, especially when he took the rather posh Samantha home with him.
As with the previous book, this one had twists and turns in the plot which had me wanting to keep reading , long after I should have put it down and got on with something else.
It's a Glasgow before my time, but I could picture the scenes. Brodie is not afraid to step into the dark side of the city to get his story - no matter what the danger to himself. And when they involved those he loved......................fireworks!!
Can't wait for the sequel to see if Brodie and Samantha carry on as they are or take their relationship a step further.
And the reason for the title is that I think it would make a fantastic film, but please can they cast a real Scottish actress as his Mum, as I would hate to see her played by someone who didn't understand the character. I still know women like his Mum. You don't mess with them!!!
on 24 April 2012
Fresh from his triumph with The Hanging Shed, Gordon Ferris brings Douglas Brodie back for another highly-charged and atmospheric yarn. Brodie is an ex-cop, returned from fighting in WWII to pursue a new career as a crime reporter in Glasgow. He operates in the city's gritty underbelly, starkly captured by Ferris against the backdrop of the 1950 post-war era. It's a tale of vigilantes, violence, humour, and enough twists to make you want to keep moving smartly along. Ferris doesn't pull his punches, round out his vowels, or update the ghetto language in a tale that's as absorbing for its delve into the past as it is for its action and suspense.
This latest addition to the Ferris bookshelf confirms his place as the rising star of crime writing.
on 21 June 2012
I've now read all four of the Gordon Ferris books on Amazon and must admit that I bought the first at a knockdown price along with other free and 'special offers' in the genre.
What sets Gordon Ferris apart from the others I bought and made me buy the rest is the fact that - although the action never stops - the characters are believable and not just cardboard cut outs on which to hang the narrative. He also has an ability to rise above the whodunit formula. Plots are believable. Dialogue is handled well and moves the story and the characters forward and onwards. All too often in other crime novels dialogue is exposition diguised as conversation and very stilted.
Having said plots are believable, looking back on Danny McRae number 2, the heroine's history and much of the plot do seem a little hard to credit in hindsight (but not whilst one is reading). But that is where Ferris's cleverness as a writer comes in. It's essential for a thriller writer to have a 'closed universe'. Just think of Agatha Christie, PD James or Dorothy L Sayers - the best of the bunch - when they limit the action to a small and finite number of characters. Ferris has chosen to set his Brodie books in immediately post war Glasgow and the McRae books in post war London (but with a visit to Berlin - another place he draws for us to believe in). Close enough for us to recognise landmarks, attitudes and lifestyles, but for Ferris to have total control. I take Ferris's word for it being accurate. He may have meticulously researched it and it may be 100% based on reality. But from the moment we enter the book, the world is Ferris's creation and we accept whatever he tells us. We see only what he allows us to see and the action, cast and characters are confined within that space.
However, enough about technique and technicalities. Gordon Ferris is a thoroughly good read. His books are highly recommended and I look forward to the next one.
on 4 June 2012
Gordon Ferris is a talent we almost missed. His first book, 'Dreaming of a Song' was published as a paperback in November 1998. It was set in World War II, as remembered from the (1998) presnt day, and was very well received by those who read it, but it didn't hit the heights. It was followed in 2007 by 'Truth, Dare, Kill' and in 2008 by 'The Unquiet Heart', two novels anchored in immediate post-war London and featuring the war-damaged Danny McRae. Again, these generated very positive reaction from readers, but failed to sell in large quantities. 'The Hanging Shed', featuring Douglas Brodie, another war-damaged ex-soldier, but this time set in Glasgow in the Spring of 1946, appeared in hardback in March 2011, but had an earlier release on Kindle at Christmas 2010, where it quickly topped the charts ahead of a bevy of well-established names. 'Bitter Water' is the second novel featuring Douglas Brodie. The three preceding novels are available through Amazon; 'Dreaming of a Song' is currently out of print, but hopefully Ferris's current high profile will prompt a reprint soon.
If you have't read 'The Hanging Shed', it's probably better to read that novel first, as there are quite a few retrospective references in 'Bitter Water', and it will help you to understand the rather complex relationship between Brodie and the pioneering young female advocate Sam(antha) Campbell.
Following the publicity surrounding his earlier exploits, Brodie (who, incidentally, has a bursary-funded degree in literature from Glasgow University, although his roots are very much among the working-class mining community of South-West Scotland) has secured a job as a crime reporter with the 'Glasgow Gazette', assisted by the good offices of chief crime reporter Wullie McAllister. Glasgow is in post-war flux, and there is talk of demolishing much of the inner city, shipping the hapless residents to the outer fringes of civilisation in places like Easterhouse and putting hundreds of small traders out of business. There is skullduggery in high places as influential councillors are courted by wealthy businessmen anxious to grab the largest possible slice of the financial action. But one of the said influential councillors turns up dead, bizarrely suspended upside-down with his head encased in a block of concrete.
Meanwhile, Glasgow wilts under a prolonged heatwave, tar melts around the tramlines. tempers keep pace with the rising temperature and crime escalates, provoking a vigilante reaction from a group calling themselves 'The Glasgow Marshals'. Brodie has had dealings with the man he suspects is the driving force of the group, a 'teuchter' (incomer from the Highlands) calling himself Ishmael. Wullie McAllister claims the corruption investigation as his own, while Brodie focuses on the vigilantes. The body count rises, and the two threads seem to be converging, but there is also a possible link with the remnants of the gang broken up as a result of Brodie's previous crusade. The plot thickens!
Though usually found in the 'crime' section of your local bookshop, 'Bitter Water' is as much a thriller as a crime novel. It's arguably in the American tradition of slightly seedy heroes of ambiguous probity, but the background and language is pure Glasgow and that, as much as anything, is what makes it stand out from the rest of the field. Ferris is a very accomplished writer; his words flow beautifully, and his evocation of Glasgow in 1946 is well-nigh perfect. It's certainly very much in accord - in terms af attitudes as much as language - with the tales told by my numerous Clydeside relatives of earlier generations to an avidly attentive kid, albeit one growing up at a very safe distance, not far from the Anglo-Scottish Border! There was poverty all over the United Kingdom, but Scotland had poverty with tenements, closes and single-ends - the kind of poverty in which everyone knew everyone else with whom they lived in unavoidably close proximity. That's not to say that there was an exceptionally strong sense of community, but it certainly led to dynamic relationships, loves and hatreds. All that comes across in Ferris's writing, and especially in his brilliant dialogue. It's clear that a lot of effort has been put into researching the contemporary scene at the time at which the novel is set, and the results are clear to see. Just a single niggling thought stays with me - did Tarbert really have dial telephones in 1946? But that triviality didn't have any impact upon my reading pleasure!
This is certainly the most enjoyable novel I have had the pleasure to read this year, and I have no hesitation in recommending it unreservedly. Finally, to those to whom Scotland is a far-distant, rain-drenched land somewhere beyond Watford, I offer the ressurance that although the dialogue in some short passages may seem a shade opaque, it never becomes impenetrable - so don't let that put you off a first-rate story!
I must declare an interest here - I received a review copy of this book free under the Amazon Vine programme. However, that does not guarantee a positive review from me so please believe me when I say I really really enjoyed this book.
The characters are well drawn; the prose fluid and pacey; the setting nicely done; and the storyline believable (though the body-count is a little high).
Set in Glasgow in 1946, the story follows Douglas Brodie, recently de-mobbed and now a crime reporter, as he uncovers a trail of vigilante beatings and dodgy dealings with council contracts. I was hooked by the third page and read the book in three days (all 360 pages). The main characters are likeable and the storyline is very strong. The author builds an atmospheric picture of Glasgow of the time, and he keeps a fast pace to keep you immersed.
The tone is lighter and brighter than the "tartan noir" of Ian Rankin and others, and the reader is never mired in doom and gloom. In fact the only criticism of the book might be that it is not gritty enough in describing the hard lives of people on post-war Glasgow. Nevertheless, Gordon Ferris has a great writing style and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Unless you really want something hard-bitten and dark, I'm sure you'll enjoy this.
I thoroughly enjoyed the "Hanging Shed', the first Brodie book, so grabbed this one to read at the first opportunity.
A gritty description of life in Glasgow just after the war, so good you can almost smell the smokey pubs! (In passing, I loaned this book to a friend, a fair few years older than I am, and he had been a policeman in central Glasgow at this time! He said the descriptions were amazingly accurate and he could identify not just places but some of the stories that are told. So a well-researched book as well as well written).
The plot this time is that a band of mavericks, a vigilante squad are meting out their own form of "justice" in the Glasgow on the late 1940s. This in revenge for the execution of an innocent man in the first book.
Link in the investigation Brodie's newspaper (but not Brodie) is doing into corruption at Glasgow Council (surely not??), and the links to organised crime etc, and you ahve the makings of a great, powerful, and at times scary story.
And Ferris extracts every piece of excitement from it.
Sure, the climax is a little overdrawn, but nonetheless great fun.
Well worth the read, and a pretty accurate portrayal of a place and a time.