I was happy to see this book emerge, because it continues the story of Scottish mob enforcer Nate Colgan, a smart, pessimistic man involved in GlasgowI was happy to see this book emerge, because it continues the story of Scottish mob enforcer Nate Colgan, a smart, pessimistic man involved in Glasgow's underworld. The first three books in the series, with one exception, were all cracking good reads, and this one is as well.
While there is a mystery component to this, what really makes Mackay's books stand out is the way his character describes the operations, shifting loyalties and nitty gritty details of the criminal life, with almost erudite expositions on how to be an enforcer in an effective, brutal way. It also shows how Nate struggles with retaining his humanity and trying to be a father to his young daughter without putting her in harm's way.
In this novel, Colgan's bosses have been jailed (the outcome of book No. 3), and there is a dangerous power vacuum in the crime gang. While everyone is ostensibly still following orders issued by crime boss Peter Jamieson from prison, three very different subleaders are all interested in exercising leadership in his absence.
Into this tense scene comes a small crew of criminals from Birmingham, and who has attached herself to them but Zara Cope, the mother of Colgan's child? The Engloish gang begins by bumping off a low level drug dealer attached to a drug importer in Glasgow, who then calls a meeting of all the major criminals to decide how to retaliate. But who is actually paying the Birmingham group, and what is its ultimate goal? That provides the driving force of the plot, along with Colgan's growing reliance on a young protege, Ronnie, who he is trying to teach on each job, the way any professional mentor would.
The outcome is bleak but satisfying, and we can only hope Mackay will continue to write about this dyspeptic, smart and troubled man....more
I enjoyed this trip through 17th century Germany. It had a well constructed plot and was chock full of interesting historical details (hangmen often wI enjoyed this trip through 17th century Germany. It had a well constructed plot and was chock full of interesting historical details (hangmen often were healers as well, in part to dull the pain of impending executions; hangmen's jobs often were hereditary; persecutions such as witches' trials were often ways that ambitious families displaced more important families, with well aimed accusations of evildoing), and created an interesting kaleidoscope of characters.
My only hesitation was the amateurish writing. People are always groaning and shuddering, and dialogue is often used to provide didactic background to the story, making key characters particularly and unrealistically chatty.
Nevertheless, there is a good backstory to how the hangman of Schongau, Jacob Kuisl, fell out with his younger brother when both were youngsters. Since then, brother Bartholomaus has done well for himself as a hangman in Bamberg, replacing a man who fled after particularly devastating witches' trials decades before. He is about to marry the daughter of a city scribe -- an unusual privilege -- and she persuades him to invite his estranged brother and his family to Bamberg for the festivities.
When they arrive, the city is in the midst of horrific disappearances and maulings, with stray body parts showing up in various spots, and people believe a werewolf is at work. They are right -- but not in the way they expect, and Jacob, his brother, his son and daughter and his son-in-law -- a medicus -- work together to unravel the truth of what's happening.
If you can hold your nose at some of the prose, it's an entertaining page turner.