Infiniti Writes declares a passion for the Glasgow-based Craig Russell crime series.
What is so compelling about the genre of Scottish Crime Fiction? Is it the gritty hero who precariously teeters on the edge between good and bad? Is it the familiar city location that makes us nostalgic and feel right at home, as our protagonist bravely travails the dreich streets hunting down their prey?
Whatever it is, it works, and works well. We need only mention Ian Rankin's curmudgeon detective Rebus, Quentin Jardine's DCC Bob Skinner, Alex Gray's DCI Lorimer and psychologist Dr Soloman Brightman and not forgetting Louise Welsh's crime investigating, gay, antiques dealer Rilke. Relatively new on the block (well for me) is Craig Russell's Lennox series.
Lennox is a Canadian demobbed in 1950s Glasgow. He is a private investigator (Enquiry Agent, as he refers to himself) rather than the usual police detective we may normally encounter. As with most of the heroes found within the pages of the grim and gritty Scottish Crime genre, they often carry personal demons they must contend with. Lennox is no different. In most instances we are presented with the idea of the ‘good’ cop having a darker side, which they at times step across the invisible divide into. Lennox battles between finding himself in the company of some very dark individuals, namely ‘The Three Kings’: the notorious hard-men monarchs who rule over Glasgow and who, as the series of books progress, he tries to ever distance himself from by 'going legit', as well as the scars (both mental and physical) left behind from his WWII experiences. For me, it is this slightly flawed, imperfect persona struggling to rebuild himself that gives this series its appeal.
Russell has written four books in the Lennox series so far. My journey started with book two, The Long Glasgow Kiss, and was quickly followed by The Deep Dark Sleep then Dead Men and Broken Hearts. It was while ordering a copy of the fourth book that I discovered I had actually missed the first one. My immediate reaction was, "Oh well, you don't need to read it. The books each stand alone adequately in their own right." However, such is my ‘addiction’ to this series, that no sooner had I finished Dead Men, than I found myself compelled to download Lennox.
Russell's storytelling and character development mature throughout each of the books. You find yourself strangely drawn towards and oddly empathetic to some of the books’ recurring dangerous gangland criminals: the enigmatic Handsome Jonny Cohen, one of The Three Kings himself, or the vocabulary challenged and lumbering bulk of Twinkletoes McBride, with bolt cutters in hand. And what of Glasgow's finest constabulary, where we find the jaded Superintendent McNab and the straight shooting arrow of Inspector Jock Ferguson?
However, it's the role that the city of Glasgow plays that cements these stories together. Russell paints an inspired picture of industrial post war Glasgow with its smog-hidden dirty streets and its slightly downtrodden occupants. I have to admit to a fondness for Edinburgh when it comes to the battle between Scotland's major cities, but I will concede and say that Glasgow wins hands down as the setting to Lennox's adventures. Mirror images of one another, both man and city carry the battle scars of war, each looking to a new brighter future.
All books referenced can be purchased through various outlets, online and in-store nationwide.