Book Review: Bloody January by Alan Parks

BLOODY JANUARY

Author: Alan Parks

Publisher: Canongate

Release Date: December 2017

When a teenage boy shoots a young woman dead – and then commits suicide – Detective Harry McCoy already knows that it wasn’t a random act of violence. With his enthusiastic new partner in tow, McCoy throws himself into the case, only to butt heads with his superior officers, who are suspiciously keen to divert his investigation away from Glasgow’s wealthiest family, the Dunlops. Unwilling to take ‘no’ for an answer, McCoy is about to enter a world of pain…

First things first: Bloody January is bloody great! The pungent, enigmatic opening – set in Glasgow’s notorious HMP Barlinnie prison – is about as good a first chapter as I have read in recent years, and sets the tone for a grim trawl across the underbelly of 1970s Glasgow for Harry McCoy. McCoy isn’t a dirty cop, but he’s a man with a tangled history – and unsavoury connections – and he is willing to lean on these in order to further his own career.

I’m one book into the series (a sequel, February’s Son, is out now, and a third book, Billy March Will Live Forever, drops in March 2020) and Parks’ storytelling already has echoes of David Peace’s seminal ‘Red Riding’ quartet – albeit with a more forceful moral code. The seeds for an overarching narrative are definitely sown in this book and I’m sure that McCoy will live to regret some of his actions – and his alliances – in due course.

Bloody January is a book with a defiantly … unreconstructed … sensibility, and Parks serves up a booze-fuelled story of casual violence, dirty sex and 1970s degeneracy for crime readers with strong constitutions. The story is so grubby you will feel like you need to wash your hands after turning the pages – and I read it on a Kindle, so that is really saying something! Highly recommended.

Review by Tom Leins

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