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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wha daur meddle wi me...
"Glasgow was home-made ginger biscuits and Jennifer Lawson dead in the park. It was the sententious niceness of the Commander and the threatened abrasiveness of Laidlaw. It was Milligan, insensitive as a mobile slab of cement, and Mrs Lawson, witless with hurt. It was the right hand knocking you down and the left hand picking you up, while the mouth alternated apology and...
Published 18 months ago by FictionFan

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Booktrail to gritty Glasgow
If you are looking for a novel set in Glasgow with a difference, then William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw novel may be the one for you. It’s grim, bleak but oh so intriguing. Authentic in language and setting and evocative and suggestive of so much more.

Glasgow of course is a major character in the Laidlaw novel and the descriptions are evocative of a...
Published 4 months ago by thebooktrailer


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wha daur meddle wi me..., 24 Jun 2013
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
"Glasgow was home-made ginger biscuits and Jennifer Lawson dead in the park. It was the sententious niceness of the Commander and the threatened abrasiveness of Laidlaw. It was Milligan, insensitive as a mobile slab of cement, and Mrs Lawson, witless with hurt. It was the right hand knocking you down and the left hand picking you up, while the mouth alternated apology and threat."

When Jennifer Lawson's body is found in Kelvingrove Park, it falls to Laidlaw and his colleague Harkness to find the man who raped her and beat her to death. But they're not alone in the search. Jennifer's father, Bud Lawson, wants to get there first, to mete out his own form of justice. And both Lawson and the killer have contacts in the city's underworld - men for whom violence replaces judge and jury. So the race is on...

McIlvanney's Glasgow is a bleak place, with violence never far beneath the surface, fuelled by drink and prejudice. A place of contradictions, where love exists but doesn't flourish, where loyalty is a product of fear and betrayal is met with uncompromising brutality. Laidlaw is our everyman, our observer - a player, yes, and a flawed one, but with an understanding of humanity that allows him to look beyond events to their causes, and to empathise where others condemn.

Set in the late 1970s, this is the Glasgow of my youth and I found it reeked of authenticity. The language, the attitudes, the hard-drinking culture centred around the city's pubs, the humour and bravado that defended against the ever-present threat of violence - all more extreme in the book (since I didn't mingle too much with the underworld!) but all very recognisable. And, sad to say, the sectarianism and homophobia were as present in the real world as in the book.*

"Across the street the door of the Corn Exchange opened suddenly and a small man popped out onto the pavement, as if the pub had rifted. He foundered in a way that suggested fresh air wasn't his element and at once Harkness saw that he was beyond what his father called the pint of no return."

The characterisation throughout the book is particularly strong, each character as believable as the next. Though there's an air of menace throughout, there are only a couple of graphically violent episodes and they are all the more shocking for their rarity. Fear runs through the book and, as with all the best crime fiction, moral certainties become blurred round the edges. McIlvanney's use of language is brilliant - the Glaswegian dialect is completely authentic, and I particularly enjoyed how Laidlaw slips between educated English and dialect depending on whom he's speaking to. I now fully understand why this book is considered the progenitor of the Tartan Noir genre - I can see it's influence on so many of the current crop of Scottish crime writers, not to mention the early Taggart series - and I'm duly ashamed that it took me so long to get around to reading it. Highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Canongate, via NetGalley.

*Before Visit Scotland sues me, I'd just like to point out that Glasgow has changed now and is a wonderful, sophisticated place full of welcoming, warm-hearted, friendly and non-violent people!! Honest!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who Thinks The Law Has Anything To Do With Justice, 21 Jun 2014
By 
prisrob "pris," (New England USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Every once in a while you come across a novel that sets you back. Such a novel has all the elements you are looking for. A superb story, characters with moral, ethical and philosophical viewpoints upon which you can relate. And intelligence, a character who can bring the story from A to B with such exquisite writing, you wonder where has this author been? The author I am talking about, William McIlvanney has been around for a long time, and a chance encounter on a book he wrote in 1977 is being renewed and given birth in the US.

Laidlaw is a Scot through and through, lives in Glasgow, and is a Detective Inspector in the Glasgow police. He is a big man in stature, handsome and in his forties. He is married with three children. He is common and uncommon. "He loves philosophy and keeps 'Kierkegarrd, Camus and Unamuno' in a locked drawer of his desk. He is a potentially violent man who hates violence, a believer in fidelity who is unfaithful, and an active man who longs for understanding." He left his college years because they were trying to make him a uniform man without the thinking process he so reveres. He is at once a man who does not tolerate fools, and is looked upon as a strange man, but he is admired and respected and solves the crimes.

In this story we know the murderer. We meet him in the first chapter. But it is up to Laidlaw and his colleague to give us the rest of the story. " A murder to his mind is often the consequence of a series of unrelated acts and uncertainties." He moves into a hotel during the investigation to immerse himself in the atmosphere of the murder. We meet the people of Glasgow, not the people the tourists meet, but the real characters. And, we meet Glasgow. Laidlaw loves Glasgow, and he knows most everything there is to know about Glasgow. Laidlaw knows who will give him some answers and who he needs to meet. He understands the biggest part of his job is to listen and learn. He tends to have empathy for the downtrodden and makes few judgements. Some of this story involves the Gay community and in that time there was little empathy for these kind of people. Except from Laidlaw, he knows them as people, his people to protect or to arrest depending upon the circumstances.

The hate and violence in 1977 in this novel is the same as today. This books remains as fresh as the day it was written. "Hatred of others is to his mind a way of not having to engage with them, a denial of the sympathy that seeking understanding might arouse." Exquisite writing, as good as any I have read. Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice.

Highly Recommended. prisrob 06-20-14
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars “I think false certainties are what destroy us…What’s murder but a willed absolute, an invented certainty?”, 23 Jun 2014
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
In this classic novel from 1977, Scottish author/poet William McIlvanney pulls out all the literary stops, creating a novel so filled with ideas, unique descriptions, and unusual characters that labeling it as one of the great crime novels does it a disservice. It is also a literary novel of stunning originality, so unusual for its time that it is now labeled as the first of the “Tartan noir” novels, with McIlvanney himself described as the “Scottish Camus.” Two additional novels have also been released in the UK, also featuring Detective Inspector Laidlaw of the Glasgow Crime Squad, “a potentially violent man who hated violence, a believer in fidelity who was unfaithful, and active man who longed for understanding.”

The Prologue establishes the unique nature of this novel, with an unnamed young man running and running, totally in tune with his senses, knowing he has done something terrible but not why. At about the same time, Detective Inspector Laidlaw is thinking some of the same things that the running man has been thinking. Even as a child, “He [experienced] nights when the terror of darkness had driven him to his parents’ room. He must have run for miles on that bed.” Tommy Bryson, the running man, has killed a young woman, and Laidlaw, the detective, will be the one most in tune with Bryson in the search to find him in this dramatic and unusual novel of pursuit in which two men, one a killer and one a policeman, reveal themselves to be not so different from each other after all.

Soon the reader learns more about the killer’s background and the name of at least one friend who is willing to do whatever is necessary to save him, and as the search for the killer develops, the city of Glasgow is revealed in all its unsavory layers, from petty crooks to bookmakers to mob leaders. The reader meets them all, while simultaneously learning the loyalties and animosities within each criminal group. The police, too, have their hierarchy, and their own unsavory histories, and everyone’s motivation for finding Tommy differs. While none of these individual motivations are new, McIlvanney’s descriptive powers make the narrative feel new, filled with unique observations. One man is described as “a mobile quarrel with the world…His face looked like an argument you couldn’t win,” another as “Mary Poppins with hair on her chest.” Even something as commonplace as an early summer day becomes unique in McIlvanney’s hands. The Glasgow sun is “dully luminous, an eye with cataract.”

As the novel works its way to the inevitable confrontation and climax, the reader (this one, anyway) continues to be enthralled by the author’s style and obvious literary skill, confident that the ending will be as perceptive and sensitive as the opening. Though we never really get to know Laidlaw as much as we might want, there are two more Laidlaw books that should fill in some blanks. This one is a true classic for anyone who wonders just how good a crime novel can be as Laidlaw holds to his own truths and refuses to succumb to the easy black and white view of the world so common to this genre.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Booktrail to gritty Glasgow, 1 Aug 2014
By 
thebooktrailer (Whereever a book takes us) - See all my reviews
If you are looking for a novel set in Glasgow with a difference, then William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw novel may be the one for you. It’s grim, bleak but oh so intriguing. Authentic in language and setting and evocative and suggestive of so much more.

Glasgow of course is a major character in the Laidlaw novel and the descriptions are evocative of a dark side of the city that you won’t necessarily want to visit.

However this is the joy of fiction is it not? to see and wonder about a city that you may or may know. A side to the city that is a fictional creation but a thrilling one at that. McIlvanney’s Glasgow is a bleak place, with violence never far beneath the surface, fuelled by drink and prejudice.

The novel is a journey around this city of dank despair – and when it opens with a girl’s body found in one of the city’s parks, it is up to Laidlaw and his team to find out what happened. the race is on. However the real race seems to be between them finding the killer and the girl’s father finding who killed his daughter. The father has contacts in the city’s underworld which changes things.

This is the Glasgow of the 1970s – not just the streets and the city atmosphere but the attitudes, lifestyle, drinking culture and of course the language. All focusing on building a highly evocative image of the underbelly of the city, its people and the time period.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure genius, 6 Dec 2013
By 
Elaine Tomasso (Troon. Uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Laidlaw (Laidlaw 1) (Laidlaw Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
It took me a long time to get to this book and now I know I should have read it years ago. The plot is relatively simple - the hunt for the murderer of a teenager - and the action sparse but violent so what's to like? It's the journey to the solution which is absolutely gripping. I've never seen Glasgow better portrayed - the landscape, the patter and the people are all spot on and Laidlaw is the product of this background where self confidence was not a virtue and blowing your own trumpet was discouraged at every turn. If you can cope with the vernacular this is a tremendous read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Errant Knight of the Crime Squad, 5 Sep 2013
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Laidlaw (Laidlaw 1) (Laidlaw Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
Curiosity over the recent revival of interest in a crime writer said to have inspired Ian Rankin, led me to read the first in his trilogy on DI Laidlaw. Prickly, sardonic, subversive, a maverick with a rocky marriage and a boss who only tolerates him because he gets results - all this sounds like a stereotype of fictional detectives we have come to know, but Laidlaw was one of the first, appearing in print back in 1977.

This investigation of the brutal murder of a young woman is less of a whodunnit- we are catapulted into the murderer's confused psyche in Chapter 1, and more of a whydunnit, exploring the personalities of the main characters against the background of gritty gangland Glasgow. The images are often striking and original: "A Glasgow sun was out, dully luminous, an eye with a cataract", Laidlaw is described as "looking terrible with a right eye like a roadmap", or a man watches "a blackbird balance its beak like a nugget of gold". The language is often quite poetical and repays reading slowly, but the pressure is on to find out what happens next.

Some scenes read almost like a play, as when Laidlaw's young sidekick Harkness asks how they can begin to relate to the murderer. Laidlaw's unusual view is that, "This murder is a very human message. But it's in code. We have to try and crack the code. But what you are looking for is a part of us. You don't know that, you can't begin."

When we first meet Laidlaw, he is "feeling a bleakness that wasn't unfamiliar to him....doing a penance for being him." Since this negativity, combined with great intensity, often oppress both Harkness (driven to ask "who wants to be batman to a mobile disaster area") and Laidlaw's long-suffering wife Ena ( she's looking after the three kids he claims to love whilst he is out philandering), you may wonder how the author expects his readers to put up with his creation. Yet, the gloom is offset by wry humour and tight plotting. Although I sometimes found the style of writing contrived (and could not get some sentences even after several readings), this novel stays in one's mind longer than the usual monosodium glutamate thriller, and leaves you with the sense that it is both gripping and worth reading.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 20 Sep 2013
By 
atticusfinch1048 - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
An Oldie but definitely a Goodie
This rerelease by Canongate Books of William McIlvanney's defunctive detective is a brilliant reminder as to why he is considered one of Scotland's best crime writers. For people my age, mid - 40s it makes the original Taggert look like a southern softie. This book was originally published back in 1977, and was the first in the Laidlaw trilogy. The novel is set in the 70s with all the fashions and griminess I remember as a kid, what would now be called post-industrial Glasgow, pre-Thatcher.

Glasgow has always had the reputation of being a hard man's city, where if you say the wrong thing you could end up with a Glasgow kiss. In the mid-1970s Glasgow was in decline, the tenement slums were at their worst, the shipyards were closing the pubs were rough and the hard men were simply nuts.

We are introduced to Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw as he investigates the sexual murder of Jennifer Lawson, who's father he had met in the early hours of a Sunday when he reported her missing. His daughter was found hidden on Glasgow Green on a Sunday morning minus her panties and completely defiled. It shows how desperate and disgusting the world can be. To assist him in the search he has been given a DC who has transferred into the Crime Squad, and Harkness has been warned that Laidlaw is different and he is to report back to the main inquiry.

It is through this background of moral concerns of mid 70s Glasgow and all the social issues that go hand in hand with it. As Laidlaw tip toes his way through the moral decline of the City he used gangland villains such as John Rhodes to act as his ears on the street, if it works is a different matter. We are introduced to some of the gangland villains of Glasgow, and the self made men who could do without the police looking too closely at their affairs.

This wonderful crime novel shows the City's dark shadows and how sometimes you need to operate in them to achieve real success. This is a wonderful book with an original defective detective who solves the crime his way which is certainly not how the rest of the Police Force would do it, but he does succeed. Harkness is a willing voyeur on this journey through the harsh Glasgow criminal world on a learning curve and finally respecting Laidlaw.

This is a wonderful trip back into the 1970s and the language that McIlvanney used then brings back the image of a decaying Glasgow and the harsh cruel world that operated around the city of the day. With people today walking around with mobile phones this brings memories back when not everyone has a phone at all and the old red phone boxes with your change waiting for the pips. This is a timeless classis well worth reading today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laidlaw, 16 Mar 2014
By 
Dave Ross (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Laidlaw (Laidlaw 1) (Laidlaw Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
it was like visiting an old friend, Laidlaw was the template for the deep, dour and complex Scottish detective. And it transported me to the Glasgow of my youth, a great read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Scottish crime read, 11 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Laidlaw (Laidlaw 1) (Laidlaw Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
Interesting written style which I found tricky to get into at first. But once I got used to that, and that there are multiple viewpoints narrated, it's a good crime read. I find the phonetic Scottish accents a little annoying (and I'm Scottish) but that's just my style preference. I think you find out the killer early on, which takes some of the "thrill" out of the thriller for me. But I haen't quite finished it yet, so maybe I will change my mind!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well crafted and superbly written, 2 Dec 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Laidlaw (Paperback)
Set in the gritty realism of Glasgow streets, this book deals with horrific murder and it's aftermath. It touches briefly on the lives of all the characters, namely the family of the murdered girl, the various factions of Police working the case, and the murderer himself. Like the pebble thrown into the pond the circles widen around him until all revolve around each other. Laidlaw and his different approach to Police work is the focal point of this book and brings some welcome relief to the whole grim and often bitter process. I liked Laidlaw for his refusal to "monsterise" the killer - he sees this as a total cop out by society. McIlvanney's biting social commentary put me in mind of Ruth Rendell at times. One quote (sorry, can't find it to quote it directly) that I found interesting, with referral to the murder victim's brutal father, was "What is bigotry if not unearned certainty?". Really left me with a lot to think about. And what is it about these Scots as great writers of Crime? I have to put William McIlvanney right up there with Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, and I look forward to many hours of pleasurable discomfort as I read more of his work.
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