A new book from the father of Tartan Noir and other Scottish crime treats

“Writing is a way of sharing our humanity.”
― William McIlvanney (1936 –2015)

The much-vaulted sub-genre of Tartan Noir (which is now occasionally humorously and affectionately maligned) has some very strong entries in this month’s recently acquired crime, mystery and thriller selection, including books from several luminaries such as the Modern Queen of Crime Val McDermid. There’s also a new book from Ian Rankin that takes up the reins from the father of “Tartan Noir”, William McIlvanney. In The Dark Remains Ian completes an unfinished manuscript from William McIlvanney’s archives. The resulting novel brings evocatively to life William McIlvanney’s unique writing style and richly evokes the grimy world of Scotland in the 1970’s as, incidentally, does Val McDermid’s superb 1979.

In many ways William McIlvanney was the pioneering author who trailblazed the path for many modern Scottish crime writers to follow. There’s also a new work from the fabulous  Alex Grey called Before the Storm, a truly gripping read that has plot elements that move between both Zimbabwe and Glasgow.

Other title highlights include a wonderful new (already widely acclaimed)  New Zealand  crime voice  Anne Harré and her debut novel The Leaning Man, set in Wellington with  vivid descriptions of the city itself and  includes scenes in our very own Te Awe Library; it is a compulsive and page-turning read. Keep a close eye out for our upcoming exclusive interview with Anne Harré in conversation with Dame Fiona Kidman!

You can also watch  Professor Val McDermid talk exclusively to us in the interview at the end of this blog, which includes a section on some of her creative thoughts behind 1979.

The dark remains / McIlvanney, William
“Lawyer Bobby Carter did a lot of work for the wrong type of people. Now he’s dead and it was no accident. Besides a distraught family and a heap of powerful friends, Carter’s left behind his share of enemies. So, who dealt the fatal blow? DC Jack Laidlaw’s reputation precedes him. He’s not a team player, but he’s got a sixth sense for what’s happening on the streets. His boss chalks the violence up to the usual rivalries, but is it that simple? As two Glasgow gangs go to war, Laidlaw needs to find out who got Carter before the whole city explodes. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

1979 / McDermid, Val
“1979. It is the winter of discontent, and reporter Allie Burns is chasing her first big scoop. There are few women in the newsroom and she needs something explosive for the boys’ club to take her seriously. Soon Allie and fellow journalist Danny Sullivan are exposing the criminal underbelly of respectable Scotland. They risk making powerful enemies – and Allie won’t stop there. When she discovers a home-grown terrorist threat, Allie comes up with a plan to infiltrate the group and make her name. But she’s a woman in a man’s world… and putting a foot wrong could be fatal.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Before the storm / Gray, Alex
“Inspector Daniel Kohi of the Zimbabwean police force returns home one night to find his worst nightmare has been realised. His family dead, his house destroyed, and in fear for his life, he is forced to flee the country he loves. Far away in Glasgow, DSI William Lorimer has his hands full. Christmas is approaching, the city is bustling, and whilst the homicide rate has been relatively low, something much darker is brewing. Counter-Terrorism have got wind of a plot, here in Lorimer’s native city, to carry out an unspeakable atrocity on Christmas Eve. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
 

The Moorland murderers / Jecks, Michael
“July, 1556. En route to France and escape from Queen Mary’s men, Jack Blackjack decides to spend the night at a Devon tavern, agrees to a game of dice – and ends up accused of murder. To make matters worse, the dead man turns out to have been the leader of the all-powerful miners who rule the surrounding moors – and they have no intention of waiting for the official court verdict to determine Jack’s guilt. But who would frame Jack for murder . . . and why?  As Jack’s attempts to find answers stirs up a hornet’s nest of warring factions within the town, events soon start to spiral out of control . . .” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 
The distant dead / Thomson, Lesley
“London, 1940. Several neighbours heard the scream of the woman in the bombed-out house. One told the detective she thought the lady had seen a mouse. Another said it wasn’t his business what went on behind closed doors. None of them imagined that a trusting young woman was being strangled by her lover… Tewkesbury, 2020. Beneath the vast stone arches of Tewkesbury Abbey, a man lies bleeding, close to death. He is the creator of a true-crime podcast which now will never air. He was investigating the murder of a 1940s police pathologist – had he come closer to the truth than he realised? (Adapted from Catalogue)

The royal secret / Taylor, Andrew
“Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate – but the task brings unexpected dangers. Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells of blood and a captive Barbary lion prowls the stables. Then a prestigious new commission arrives. Cat must design a Poultry House for the woman that the King loves most in all the world. Unbeknownst to all, at the heart of this lies a royal secret so explosive that it could not only rip apart England but change the entire face of Europe…”- (Adapted from Catalogue)

 
In the crypt with a candlestick / Waugh, Daisy
“Sir Ecgbert Tode of Tode Hall has survived to a grand old age – much to the despair of his younger wife, Emma. But at ninety-three he has, at last, shuffled off the mortal coil. Emma, Lady Tode, thoroughly fed up with being a dutiful Lady of the Manor, wants to leave the country to spend her remaining years in Capri. Unfortunately her three tiresome children are either unwilling or unable (too mad, too lefty or too happy in Australia) to take on management of their large and important home, so the mantle passes to a distant relative and his glamorous wife. Not long after the new owners take over, Lady Tode is found dead in the mausoleum. Accident? Or is there more going on behind the scenes of Tode Hall…?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The leaning man / Harré, Anne
“Wellington. The land dips and rolls, the wind has a life of its own. Dig a little deeper and the city is unforgiving and unrepentant. Forget the politicians, they’re poor amateurs in deception and crime. It’s Saturday night down on the wharf. Celebrations are in full swing for the Westons’ fortieth wedding anniversary. Their daughter Stella has returned from London to attend. Once shoulder-tapped as detective material, a few bad decisions and a questionable ethical dilemma saw her leave the force under a cloud. She’s now a private investigator in London, reduced to filming errant husbands for court cases. She doesn’t want to be home. Later that night her best friend Teri is found dead in a lane in the central city. Her phone is missing. It looks like suicide, but Stella won’t believe it. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

“All things are transient here below and frail” – Our latest crime fiction showcase

“All things are transient here below and frail. Death only standeth fast for evermore”
Lorenzo de’ Medici  1449-1492,

One of the wonderful things about the genre of crime fiction is that it knows no geographical borders,  a wellwritten crime book from any part of the globe will stand a good chance of being quickly translated and released into a worldwide market. There is a huge global readership for good crime novels.  And the truly international nature and appeal of a good crime novel is amply demonstrated in this month’s crime fiction showcase; in this month’s selection we have novels from eight different countries. Ranging from Sweden and Germany to Scotland and Renaissance era Italy we even have a crime novel set in England where HRH Queen Elizabeth is the sleuth.

The family business / Allen, Hania
“In the north of Dundee, DI Dania Gorska is leading the search for a missing boy,  combing the dramatic landscape in hope of finding the child. What they discover in a derelict hut in the hills isn’t the boy, but is the remains of a body, chained to a wall. This body isn’t the missing child but is identified as another young boy. Dania begins to unearth the old case, determined to discover Cameron’s killer and looking for possible connections to the present-day missing child. But as she digs into the past, she realises that the Affleck family are hiding more than they let on and that there are some dark secrets that everyone wants to stay buried.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

For the dead / Bengtsdotter, Lina
“Thirty years ago, teenager Paul Bergman was found drowned in Gullspang’s lake, and his best friend Francesca vanished from her home. Paul’s death was ruled a suicide, and Francesca was never found. DI Charlie Lager is still haunted by childhood memories of a strange house and the missing girl who once lived there.
Convinced that the original investigation was flawed, Charlie is determined to uncover what really happened all those decades ago. But someone out there is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the truth from coming out.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Windsor knot / Bennett, S. J.
“The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck. When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they are looking in the wrong place. For the queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her teenage years. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes. With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

City of vengeance / Bishop, D. V.
“Florence. Winter, 1536. A prominent Jewish moneylender is murdered in his home, a death with wide implications in a city powered by immense wealth. Cesare Aldo, a former soldier and now an officer of the Renaissance city’s most feared criminal court, is given four days to solve the murder: catch the killer before the feast of Epiphany – or suffer the consequences. During his investigations Aldo uncovers a plot to overthrow the volatile ruler of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici. Can Aldo stop the conspiracy before anyone else dies, or will his own secrets destroy him first?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an Audiobook .

The dance of the serpents / De Muriel, Oscar
“December, 1889. There have been many bad days in Edinburgh police’s secret subdivision ‘The Commission for the Elucidation of Unsolved Cases Presumably Related to the Odd and Ghostly’. But today is surely the worst. Because the exiled English Inspector Ian Frey, and his Scottish boss ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray are summoned to a meeting in the middle of the night with the Prime Minister himself. And he tells them that Queen Victoria  wants them both dead. To be pardoned they must embark on a mission so dangerous that they might be saving Her Majesty the job of executing them. A conspiracy within the highest office in the land.” (Catalogue)

Jeremiah’s bell : a D.C.I. Daley thriller / Meyrick, Denzil
“When rich American hotelier Alice Wenger arrives in Kinloch, some eyebrows are raised and memories are rekindled. Meanwhile, the secretive Doig family live a solitary existence on a remote part of the Kintyre peninsula, without even the basic amenities of modern life. After the family’s patriarch plummets to his death, secrets of stolen gold, whisky smuggling, shipwrecks and brutal events going back decades begin to emerge. With emotions running high in Kinloch Police Office, the team must put aside their own problems and get to the bottom of a sickening crime. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Stasi winter / Young, David
“In 1978 East Germany, nothing is as it seems. The state’s power is absolute, history is re-written, and the “truth” is whatever the Stasi say it is. So when the murder of a woman is officially labeled an “accidental death,” Major Karin Muller of the People’s Police is faced with a dilemma. To solve the crime, she must defy the official version of events. But defying the Stasi means putting her own life–and the lives of her young family–in danger. As the worst winter in history holds Germany in its freeze, Muller must untangle a web of state secrets and make a choice: between the truth and a lie, justice and injustice, and, ultimately, life and death.” (Catalogue)

These women / Pochoda, Ivy
“There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a wilfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

 

Q and A with Professor Val McDermid

For your delight, edification, and enjoyment our very special online Q and A with the Queen of modern crime fiction Professor Val McDermid.

We are absolutely thrilled to be presenting this Online event with Professor Val McDermid.

Filmed at Val’s home by her partner Professor Jo Sharp and using questions specially gathered from the users of WCL and beyond. The interview is a fascinating insightful and entertaining look into one of the most popular and critically acclaimed writers on the planet.

About Professor Val McDermid

Val McDermid is one of the biggest names in contemporary crime fiction and ‘Tartan Noir’ — her novels have sold more than 16 million copies and have been translated into 40 languages worldwide. Her novels currently fall into four main series, featuring a host of memorable characters: As well as five standalone novels.

  • The Lindsay Gordon books
  • The Kate Brannigan books
  • The DCI Karen Pirie series
  • The Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series

Val has also written Non-fiction, short stories, and an award-winning children’s book.

Val’s most recent release is the sixth DCI Karen Pirie novel called Still life. 

Val McDermid has also won crime writing’s most prestigious award, the much-coveted Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year, for her novel The Mermaids Singing. Along with her plethora of awards, she also holds an Honorary Fellowship from St Hilda’s College in Oxford — where she was the first student from a state school in Scotland ever to attend.

We have an extensive range of Val McDermid books available to borrow click here to view our entire collection.

You can find out more about Val’s activities (and find loads more criminally good recipes besides!) by visiting her website — valmcdermid.com.

We wish to extend to Professor Val McDermid and Professor Jo Sharp our deepest and most sincere thanks for sharing their time with us, and for such a fabulous interview — which you can now view below.

Still life / McDermid, Val
On a freezing winter morning, fishermen pull a body from the sea. It is quickly discovered that the dead man was the prime suspect in a decade-old investigation, when a prominent civil servant disappeared without trace. DCI Karen Pirie was the last detective to review the file and is drawn into a sinister world of betrayal and dark secrets. But Karen is already grappling with another case, one with even more questions and fewer answers. A skeleton has been discovered in an abandoned campervan and all clues point to a killer who never faced justice – a killer who is still out there. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an Audiobook.

Forensics : what bugs, burns, prints, DNA, and more tell us about crime / McDermid, Val
The dead talk–to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also  available as an eBook.

Overdrive cover Imagine a Country, Val McDermid & Jo Sharp (ebook) “The first step on the road to change is to imagine possibility. Imagine A Country offers visions of a new future from an astonishing array of Scottish voices, from comedians to economists, writers to musicians. Edited, curated and introduced by bestselling author Val McDermid and geographer Jo Sharp, it is a collection of ideas, dreams and ambitions, aiming to inspire change, hope and imagination. Featuring: Ali Smith, Phill Jupitus, A.l. Kennedy, Alan Cumming, Kerry Hudson, Greg Hemphill, Carol Ann Duffy, Chris Brookmyre, Alison Watt, Alasdair Gray, Leila Aboulela, Ian Rankin, Selina Hales, Sanjeev Kohli, Jackie Kay, Damian Barr, Elaine C. Smith, Abir Mukherjee, Anne Glover, Alan Bissett, Louise Welsh, Jo Clifford, Ricky Ross, Trishna Singh, Cameron Mcneish, Alexander Mccall Smith, Carla Jenkins, Don Paterson, and many more…” (Overdrive description)

My granny is a pirate / McDermid, Val
” The perfect story to keep you entertained whilst stuck at home and missing Granny Who knows, when you next see her, she may have turned into a pirate… My granny is a pirate
She’s sailed the seven seas.
She captured many pirate ships
But was always home for tea. When a family secret about Granny is revealed, we discover all about her fiercesome pirate reputation and her swashbuckling ways – from making other rogueish pirates walk the plank to singing sea shanties to her dog, Jolly Roger. Look again at your granny…could she be a pirate too? A must-have book for all pirate fans.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Glasgow novels

I love summer in Glasgow, it’s my favourite day of the year.

Fuad Alakbarov

It may not be Scotland’s capital city, but Glasgow is easily Scotland’s most populous — it was once one of the industrial powerhouses of Victorian Britain. The decline of these industries sadly led to many deep seated social issues that exist to this day, but nowadays Glasgow is known for its vibrant world-class art scene, its rich, comic outlook on life, some remarkable architecture and buildings — and of course deep fried mars bars and legions of novels written about or featuring life in the city.

In many of these books, the character and atmosphere of the city itself often lurks like an extra character. This year’s Booker Prize shortlist features one such novel — Shuggie Bain. Set in a run-down Glasgow housing estate in the 1980s, it revolves around a lonely outsider boy and his struggle to fit in, to be accepted, and to survive.

While many novels about Glasgow focus on the darker side of the city, others show the myriad of different aspects of the city and its inhabitants. Below you’ll find a selection of novels that feature Glasgow at their core and show the many faceted nature of this marvellous city. Enjoy.


Shuggie Bain [paperback] / Stuart, Douglas
“It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain  dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright. But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A small weeping / Gray, Alex
“The body of a prostitute is found at Glasgow’s Queen Street station, her hands, pointing towards her feet, placed as if in prayer, a small flower pressed between the palms. Psychologist Solomon Brightman is called to assist DCI Lorimer in the murder hunt. But before any conclusions can be drawn, the body of a nurse is discovered at The Grange, a private clinic. Aside from the careful arrangement of the corpses, there is no obvious connection between the victims. Then a third body turns up, and it seems increasingly clear that they have a serial killer on their hands.” (Catalogue)

The special dead / Anderson, Lin
” When Mark is invited back to Leila’s flat and ordered to strip, he expects the experience of his life. Waking later to find Leila gone, he opens the wrong door and finds he’s entered a nightmare; behind the swaying Barbie dolls that hang from the ceiling is the body of the girl he just had sex with. Rhona Macleod’s investigation reveals the red silk cord used to hang Leila to be a cingulum, a Wiccan artifact used in sex magick. Sketches of sexual partners hidden in the dolls provide a link to nine men, but who are they? ” (Catalogue)

The cutting room / Welsh, Louise
“An auctioneer by profession, Rilke is an acknowledged expert in antiques. When he comes upon a hidden collection of violent, and highly disturbing, erotic photographs, Rilke feels compelled to unearth more about the deceased owner who coveted them. What follows is a compulsive journey of discovery, decadence and deviousness.” (Adapted from Catalogue). Also available as an eBook

Buddha Da / Donovan, Anne
“Painter and decorator Jimmy McKenna develops  an keen interest in Buddhism after a chance meeting in a Glasgow sandwich bar with a Buddhist monk, but how will Jimmy’s family react to his new found faith and how will this new approach to life change Jimmy?”  (Adapted from Catalogue)

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine / Honeyman, Gail
” Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Espedair Street / Banks, Iain
“Daniel Weir used to be a famous – not to say infamous – rock star. At thirty-one he has been both a brilliant failure and a dull success. He’s made a lot of mistakes that have paid off and a lot of smart moves he’ll regret for ever (however long that turns out to be). Daniel Weir has gone from rags to riches and back, and managed to hold on to them both, though not to much else. His friends all seem to be dead, fed up with him or just disgusted – and who can blame them? And now Daniel Weir is all alone. As he contemplates his life, Daniel realises he has only two problems: the past and the future. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The sacred art of stealing / Brookmyre, Christopher
” Angelique had enough to be fed up about before the embarrassment of being a cop taken hostage by the most bizarrely unorthodox crooks ever to set foot in Glasgow. Disillusioned, disaffected and chronically single, she’s starting to take stock of the sacrifices she’s made for a job that’s given her back nothing but grief. So when her erstwhile captor has the chutzpah to phone her at work and ask her out on a date, Angelique finds herself in no great hurry to turn him in. She knows now that the cops will never love her back, but maybe one of the robbers will.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Tartan Noir: Scottish hardboiled crime fiction

Tartan Noir is a Scottish brand of hardboiled crime fiction. From the late seventies on, Scottish authors took the genre of hardboiled crime fiction pioneered in the United States in the ’20s and ’30s, transported it to Scottish environs and gave it their own dark twist.

Popular Tartan Noir characters include: Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus (these books are mostly set in Edinburgh, and Ian Rankin used some of his favourite haunts in the books), Stuart MacBride’s Sergeant Logan McRae (of Aberdeen), and William McIlvanney’s Glaswegian DI Laidlaw (McIlvanney is considered the ‘Godfather’ of Tartan Noir, and his 1977 novel Laidlaw is often described as the first book in the genre). You’ll even find argument that the genre started much much earlier with Robert Louis Stevenson.

Whatever the reasons, we have to say that this genre seems to mesh very well with the Scottish imagination – there are some great reads here! Here are a few popular titles and authors to get you started with Tartan Noir:

Knots and Crosses, by Ian Rankin Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride Quite ugly one morning, by Christopher Brookmyre The field of blood, by Denise Mina Driftnet, by Lin Anderson Paying for it, by Tony Black

Tartan Noir authors:

Links:

And if you’d like to read more about Tartan Noir, here are some links for you: