This is the kind of novel that makes the Glasgow marketing chaps and business brethren curl their toes. How can Glasgow shed its grime-infused, murderous-capital, criminal-underbelly stereotype when wee women keep writing about it? In a city where poverty resides in every second postcode, the marketing machine simply can’t ignore the side of Glasgow that isn’t ‘world class’ in the way we want it to be.
When I refer to women collectively, I am of course referring to Denise Mina, the titan of Glasgow crime and author of the Garnethill trilogy and the Alex Morrow series. The End of the Wasp Season was, literally, a book I couldn’t put down. I loved the attention to detail – the reference to the speed bumps in Castlemilk particularly sticks in my mind.
So too does Louise Welsh depict the intricacies and entrails of Glasgow. We find ourselves in and out of well-known buildings, streets and residential areas, seeing them all in a different, sepia tainted light.
Inevitably of course, the central crime involves a young woman and misdeeds perpetrated on her person. It is dispiriting to have a woman again as the victim, but it seems that this is beyond conventional for the crime genre (unless of course you’re talking about the Scandinavian TV series The Bridge in which, with relief, the issue was climate change and eco-warriors).
The central character is not a Detective Inspector, but a gay auctioneer who uncovers some unnerving effects as he conducts a house clearance. Rilke is our anti-hero, for instance getting nicked by the polis for some unsavoury behaviour in Kelvingrove Park, but he is tenacious which is what you need to be in crime detection.
With a mixed bag of unusual characters and dodgy goings in, the book is definitely entertaining. It does come to a slightly hasty end, and with a revelation that doesn’t elicit a gasp of surprise. Slightly better pacing would have resulted in a more powerful conclusion. But, it does do what it sets out to do and makes a solid contribution to the growing genre of Scottish crime. People Make Glasgow indeed, but perhaps not in the way the tourist bureau intends.