Glaswegian Noir: Bloody January by Alan Parks- Review
Published by Canongate
Find it here: Amazon
Gangsters, gruesome violence, corrupt cops, and moral decay are the hallmarks of the Glaswegian new noir novel by Alan Parks. Meet Detective Harry McCoy and his rookie, Wattie working on a case that will unveil the darkest side of Glasgow.
Set in the first, freezing cold week of January 1973, Bloody January opens at Barlinnie Prison, where McCoy is summoned after the request of an inmate who has an urgent message for him. He wants to warn the police that a woman called Lorna will be killed the following day. No more information, just a name. Out of a sense of duty and surprised by the unexpected and unusual tip from someone he doesn't even know, McCoy follows it up and identifies a potential victim, but is unable to prevent her murder that leads to dangerous investigations on the grotesque events that follow.
I don't know where to start with my praise.
I still can't believe this is a debut. Now, if you are a seasoned reader you probably developed a sixth sense that makes you feel the confidence that veteran authors have with their stories, the way they pick exactly the right adjective that belongs to a certain description. This is how Bloody January is, from the first page you will be in Glasgow, 1973. Parks's style is evocative, well researched and character development is absolutely outstanding. I warn you, this is not the right book for you if you get easily offended by strong language, graphic violence, misogyny and adult contents. I didn't mind any of those as I believe they are fully part of the experience and add authenticity to the characters. ( in a way, I found it very similar to The girl with the dragon tattoo. No sugar-coated lies to save the readers from the blistering reality).
The plot is not the most original, basic level investigation, but that's not the point. Parks' writing is utterly compelling and so is Harry Vincent McCoy, destined to sit in my personal Olympus among other detectives like Harry Hole, Rocco Schiavone, and Mia Kruger. McCoy is the kind of old-school cop that draws a very faint line between good and bad, and obviously, find no moral implications in using ambiguous friendships to serve the justice.
He is a broken man, with a desolated emotional life, traumatized by some events in the past that is only just mentioned, leaving open to interpretation not only what was told but mostly what was not. He is the perfect noir anti-hero that is also the villain, with some aspects of his personality buried deep inside under layers of ruthless sarcasm and cynism that can eventually buy him some sort of redemption. Nevertheless, his off-duty hours are spent drinking heavily, entertaining more than friendly terms with prostitutes and downing all sorts of recreational drugs. And with them also comes the deductive thinking that helps him solve the case with a good amount of paranoia, driven by blind revenge and his own sense of justice.
The way Parks see the world, McCoy is not the only one. None of the characters in the novel seems to be free from some sort of corruption. At different levels and for many different reasons.
No, not the plot or McCoy are new to the genre but Bloody January is a very dark and fast-paced detective noir able to provokes such strong feelings that are worth to invest time and money into.
I am personally looking forward to the next installment.