Picking up The Stone Gallows by C. David Ingram (Myrmidon, 2009) I wasn’t at all sure this was going to be my cup of tea. I don’t as a rule read crime, and although I make an exception for Rebus (mainly because Rankin’s voice resonates with me on some deep level) I’m finding I’ve started to lose interest in the outcome of the plots.
The red-tinged cover of Ingram’s thriller also brought back memories of my only other encounter with ‘Tartan Noir ‘(Louise Welsh’s The Cutting Room) which left me feeling decidedly queasy. And so it was probably a good thing that The Stone Gallows starts with a bit of a tease, when the line ‘I was going to kill him’ turns out to be no more than the groan of a cop stuck on a stake-out with an irritating boss. So far so good.
There’s plenty of the seamy side of Glasgow in this book, and it’s all convincing enough for me to have spent a few chapters wondering if my girlie sensibilities would last the pace, but in the end I was hooked by the freshness of the writing and the sheer likeability , despite his faults, of the main character, Cameron Stone, whose ex-cop cynicism is married to a youthful vulnerability. Half-way through the book I realised that despite plenty going on, there was no single clear plot strand, but I was still totally engaged with the outcome, and thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns that brings it to a satisfying end that deftly avoids the happy ever after.
I guess there must be a lot of writers out there trying to carving out a sub-Rebus niche in one Scottish city or another, and by having Cameron Stone say that his boss Joe was thought to be ‘the copper Rebus had been based on’, Ingram finds a neat way of acknowledging and dispensing with any debt to Rankin at one go. But in any event, David Ingram has carved his own place well. He made me feel totally at home in Glasgow (a city I barely know) and I think that for all Cameron Stone’s readiness to use his fists (or any other weapon that comes to hand) I’d be happy to go back there with him for a sequel or three and to recommend him to more ardent crime fans.
One teensy weensy nit-pick – surely Stone’s son would be his ‘wee boy’ not his ‘little boy’? And the nurse girl-friend was too nice by far. Still, knowing Stone’s luck, he’ll probably screw that up too.