Sex, drugs and gruesome violence in 1973 Glasgow are all in store for readers of the newest voice in Scottish crime fiction.
Alan Parks’ debut novel, Bloody January, is a sharply written Glaswegian crime novel with no wasted breath in his prose. Parks’ protagonist Detective Harry McCoy is unrelenting (outside of the occasional trip to the pub, of course) when he takes on a secret society run by Glasgow’s richest family while struggling against his own corrupt police force. McCoy’s tenacious demeanour compared to his obsequious colleagues often leads him into trouble with the most dangerous criminals the city has on offer.
Bloody January is complete with an exciting mix of characters each with their own individual aims that they will stop at nothing to achieve, resulting in hectic twists and turns that challenge McCoy.
Parks puts the reader on the most dangerous streets in Glasgow with ease through his fine attention to detail. Part of this comes from the author’s experience in another industry entirely. Having spent much of his life in the music sector, Parks expertly uses his love of music as a tool for making scenes feel all the more real and powerful, creating real suspense in the reader.
While this is a strong debut novel for Parks, it is not without fault in some respects. His fiction is sharply written but this can sometimes make the narrative feel rushed. As a result, some successes the main protagonist experiences can feel undeserved because not enough interaction has occurred between characters. Included in this is another issue – the dialogue can occasionally feel stretched and unrealistic.
The novel often brings in a complex mix of heavy emotions that the city is struggling through: religious tensions, a burgeoning heroin epidemic, unstoppable police corruption and violence as the only means of solving a problem. To help relieve the tension Parks sprinkles in much needed bits of humour, but more humour, even if it is dark humour, would be welcome.
Bloody January is the first publication by Alan Parks in the Harry McCoy crime series with a new publication expected annually. After an exciting debut, Parks will surely leave readers at the edge of their seat waiting for the sequel.