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by Gordon Ferris
Corvus, April 2013
320 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 0857897608

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It is the winter of 1946/47, one of the coldest ever in the UK and particularly severe in Scotland. At the very beginning we are presented with the discovery of the body of a man murdered in a particularly gruesome way. Douglas Brodie, former policeman and now a newspaper reporter, feels responsible because he was hired to prevent this and since he was hired there have been four other murders. His original remit had been to investigate a series of burglaries within Glasgow's Jewish community and bring the perpetrator to justice, but things have become much more serious. He rather than the Glasgow police had been approached because the latter were not taking the burglaries seriously.

By the time of this murder Brodie had already discovered that the object of the burglaries was a number of suspiciously unmarked gold ingots. At the same time, Brodie's partner, barrister Samantha Campbell, has been asked to go to Hamburg to act as part of the prosecution team in the second series of trials linked with the Belsen concentration camp. Though he doesn't want to do it, Brodie is persuaded by the Chief Constable of Glasgow who wants to know if there is any connection between the Glasgow murders, the gold and the concentration camps. Brodie had already been involved in the first set of Belsen trials and has recurring nightmares about what he saw and heard. Gordon Ferris makes rather too much of this, however, particularly since Brodie's involvement doesn't seem to affect him unduly.

The opening Glasgow scenes are well written and Brodie's gradual realization that something connects the burglaries and murders is intriguing. Similarly, the trials, even though most of the accused are unconnected to the murders, are compelling, particularly for anyone unfamiliar with the Holocaust. At the end of his time in Hamburg, Brodie has gone a long way towards solving the mystery and the stage is set for his investigations to bear fruit on his return to Glasgow.

Unfortunately, from this point on there is a distinct impression that Ferris had not really decided what the ending is going to be. There are a number of fairly tense moments, but the chase is conventional and somewhat unconvincing. There is also some fairly obvious padding such as the introduction Danny McRae, apparently a friendly rival from Brodie's past. He doesn't really add anything to the story - something of which Ferris seems aware and for which he attempts to compensate by making him somewhat mysterious. The actual ending itself appears rushed and is certainly rather confusing. There is a very unlikely traitor, though it is not entirely clear whether we are supposed to condemn the treachery or make allowances for it.

Arnold Taylor is a retired Examinations Board Officer, amateur writer and even more amateur bridge player.

Reviewed by Arnold Taylor, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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