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(Jack Laidlaw #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,624 ratings  ·  211 reviews
Meet Jack Laidlaw, the original damaged detective. When a young woman is found brutally murdered on Glasgow Green, only Laidlaw stands a chance of finding her murderer from among the hard men, gangland villains and self-made moneymen who lurk in the city's shadows.

Paperback, 280 pages
Published May 2nd 2013 by Canongate Books (first published 1977)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  1,624 ratings  ·  211 reviews

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Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014

I thought the Swedes had the market cornered when it comes to gloomy, depresive, existentialist crime fiction, but William McIlvanney sets out to prove me wrong, going back right to the angsty and dreary seventies. My first impression on meeting Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw was that he is a clone of Martin Beck : slightly alcoholic, broken marriage, taciturn and manic depressive. Later I came to the decision that he has enough substance and nuance to stand on his own merits, despite the note
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a crime writer who decided to get 'all literary'. McIlvanney is a deeply authentic Scottish (Glasgow) writer and poet who decided in the late 1970's (after having written some successful and gritty novels) that he could talk about existential decay now through the device of a crime sequence. He wrote two more of these Laidlaw books, and it became a trilogy. (Laidlaw is the first). Then, when the books were a big success, and his publishers told him that the pot of gold was there for t ...more
There was an occasion many years ago when, cutting a long story short, I found myself in a pub in the East End of Glasgow (regarded as the less salubrious part of that city). The night before a man had been shot whilst sitting in a stationary car in the same locality, in what looked like a gangland-style killing. There was a TV in the pub and a newsreader was covering the story, ending the report with the words “Police have yet to confirm the identity of the victim”. This prompted a burst of lau ...more
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it
”’I thought you didn’t fancy yourself as a hard man?’

‘I don’t. But I don’t really fancy anyone else as one either. I hate violence so much I don’t intend to let anybody practise it on me with impunity. If it came to the bit, he’d win the first time all right. But I’d win the second time, if here was enough of me left to have one. No question about that. I’d arrange it that way. I don’t have fights. I have wars.’”

Laidlaw is the first novel of a trilogy of crime novels by the Scottish writer/>
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Ian Rankin and/or quality noir
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Leah
Stunning. Possibly the best-written crime novel I've read. It continually astounded me with its depth and surprising metaphors. There are noir tropes here, their meaning and resonance vastly amplified; I said similar about Ian Rankin a few months ago when I first read him, but this was like Rankin tripled, quadrupled - this, published in 1977, was one of the inspirations for Rebus.

To quote another GR review: "This isn't a crime writer who decided to get 'all literary'. McIlvanney is a deepl
A gritty police procedural set in the seedy underbelly of Glasgow. The primary character Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw is a complicated, flawed man but also vulnerable in his private life. These traits made him more appealing as a character. As a first book for a series this dark police procedural was well delivered with interesting, complex characters. Also appreciated the pockets of humour to alleviate some of the bleakness of the murder mystery.

Hadn't heard of the author previously but I
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-detective
A young woman, Jennifer Lawson, is dead: strangled and sexually assaulted, and her body has been dumped in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park. Her father is a mean, overbearing tyrant, and seeking justice. The identity of the killer is reveled early on, as is a probable motive. Brash and unconventional DI Jack Laidlaw is paired with a rookie to find the killer before further harm befalls him from several others. Laidlaw is much like the some of his Scandinavian noir detectives, such as Martin Beck or Ha ...more
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wha daur meddle wi’ me…

“Glasgow was home-made ginger biscuits and Jennifer Lawson dead in the park. It was the sententious niceness of the Commander and the threatened abrasiveness of Laidlaw. It was Milligan, insensitive as a mobile slab of cement, and Mrs Lawson, witless with hurt. It was the right hand knocking you down and the left hand picking you up, while the mouth alternated apology and threat.”

When Jennifer Lawson’s body is found in Kelvingrove Park, it falls to Laidlaw and his colleague H/>“Glasgow
Nick Davies
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Undoubtedly impressive, I should probably have read this before I did (though thanks to my Mum for pushing me to read it!) this certainly stood up to all the praise and all the critical acclaim with respect to the importance of this novel in the Tartan noir genre. I am certainly looking forward to reading the remaining two in the series - this has all of the cleverness, gritty description, convincingness and style that I find most enjoyable about the Scottish crime that I read. It was an immersi ...more
Deb Jones
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
Jack Laidlaw may be one the most fascinating and simultaneously exasperating, police detective to come along in the genre. His bend toward philosophical thought can make even the simplest question or comment from another into an existential activity.

His home life is divided between the sheer pleasure he receives from parenting his three children and the sometimes quiet, sometimes not, verbal wars with his wife.

Laidlaw's policing techniques leave him set apart from his pee
John Gaynard
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For years I heard that Laidlaw by McIlvanney was a classic and the father of all modern Scottish crime novels. Now that I have read it myself, I can say that I totally agree with this evaluation and I will read as soon as posible the two books McIlvanney wrote after Laidlaw. The dialect can be a little difficult to understand in the beginning, but it is well worth spending a couple of seconds on the first few phrases to get yourself equipped for reading the rest of the book and getting an educat ...more
Craig Pittman
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite crime novelists these days is Ian Rankin, dubbed by James Ellroy as "the king of tartan noir." But before Rankin, there was William McIlvanney, the man who showed him and everyone else -- Val McDermid, Malcolm Mackay and the rest -- how to write a Scottish crime novel. He's still miles ahead of them, too.

Starting with "Laidlaw" in 1977, McIlvanney -- a prize winning "literary" writer -- penned three novels about Jack Laidlaw, a tough but tender detective-philosophe
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: m, 2012

Jack Laidlaw is no ordinary detective. But then Glasgow is no ordinary city. His methods are unorthodox. Some would say dangerously unorthodox.

There’s nothing tidy or polite about him because there’s nothing tidy or polite about his world. But he knows the city in all its moods; sometimes he seems to know it better than he knows himself.

But when he’s given the job of hunting down the bru
Jun 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Huge mistake on my part but my advice is, do not do audio. This probably would be an awesome read but I chose the audio which was very hard to follow. Literally I couldn’t understand the accent clearly so I wasn’t always following what was happening. The actual book would be easier, I am certain.
Diane Challenor
I read and enjoyed this book in 2019. I’d abandoned the audiobook back in 2013 after listening to the first chapter and thinking that the Scottish accent of the narrator (William McIlvanny) was a little too dense for my late night listening (before dropping off to sleep). This year, 2019, I purchased the eBook edition, and matched the audiobook with it, and then found I could follow the story more easily. I was determined to read the story. Also, I noticed, after reading the text via the eBook, ...more
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
what's better than a poet writing noir novels. nothing, that's what. glasgow in the 1970's seems a bit like freetown in the naughties: brutal, poor, unfair, corrupt, biting, where the people wonder why you never come to the bar anymore, they miss you you see.
so a cop procedural with bad guys, grieving parents, and even some cops, trying to solve the crime.
wonderfully philosophical, beer-mat-poetical, and lots of social geography, this 1st of 3 novels is just what i like, gritty noir with
Elaine Tomasso
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time to get to this book and now I know I should have read it years ago. The plot is relatively simple - the hunt for the murderer of a teenager - and the action sparse but violent so what's to like? It's the journey to the solution which is absolutely gripping. I've never seen Glasgow better portrayed - the landscape, the patter and the people are all spot on and Laidlaw is the product of this background where self confidence was not a virtue and blowing your own trumpet was d ...more
Susan Johnson
This is the first Tartan noir and it is a doozy. The story concerns a young woman brutally murdered. Laidlaw is called in to investigate along with a new young investigator, Harkness. The investigation goes to the underbelly of Glasgow society. The language is very authentic. An example of a sentence, "Wan big. Wan no' sa big." It slowed me down to read the vernacular.

It is also a product of its time. There are a lot of homosexuals in this book and they are repeatedly referred to a
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-thrillers
An Oldie but definitely a Goodie
This rerelease by Canongate Books of William McIlvanney’s defunctive detective is a brilliant reminder as to why he is considered one of Scotland’s best crime writers. For people my age, mid – 40s it makes the original Taggert look like a southern softie. This book was originally published back in 1977, and was the first in the Laidlaw trilogy. The novel is set in the 70s with all the fashions and griminess I remember as a kid, what would now be called post-
Dec 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Laidlaw is the first of three books by William McIlvanney featuring Glasgow DI Jack Laidlaw. Laidlaw is sort of Glasgow's version of Edinburgh's Rebus, without all of the self-destructive drinking. Jack Laidlaw is a tough loner. While other cops, such as his 'arch - enemy' DI Milligan are professionals in the way that they are paid to be police officers. Laidlaw is a professional in the way that he feels the crime, feels the killer, feels the victim.
It's a rambling sort of story. A young woman is raped and
Sanjay Varma
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I liked this book. The hero Laidlaw's gruff exterior hides an intelligent man with a philosophical mindset. As he tries to solve the murder of a teenage girl, he squares off against grimy gangsters, and it seems violence is always on the verge of erupting.

Detective stories are a modern mythology that reveals faith and anxieties related to scientific reasoning. The plot of a detective story is very linear. The detective, in this case policeman Laidlaw, follows a clue to a suspect, who
Mary Fleming
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very gritty The real Glasgow Unpolished and funny!! No, Laidlaw is not Rebus!!!! A good read
Rachel Hall
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If a crime novel could be described as a thing of beauty, perhaps William McIvanney would take the crown with his seminal Laidlaw trilogy. The first Laidlaw novel was originally published in 1977 and still serves as the forerunner to every piece of crime fiction with a social conscience. Jack Laidlaw is a man of contrasts, every bit as ravaged by his inner demons as any existentialist philosopher. This novel still stands as a watershed in crime fiction and saw critics coin the term 'Tartan Noir' ...more
Bill Lawrence
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-fiction
My first experience of William McIlvanney and quite an experience. Set in 1970s Glasgow as Detective Jack Laidlaw walks those mean streets, or gets a bus, in search of the murderer of young Jennifer Lawson. Credited with being the birth of Tartan Noir, this is nothing embryonic but emerges brutally from the belly of Glasgow's dark streets and bars without any apology. McIlvanney's style is wondrous, impressionistic, comic, nasty and yet with a humanistic heart. His use of metaphor is up there wi ...more
Claudia  -
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
After having been recommended this book numerous times, I finally got round to reading it and what a revelation it was. It is the true granddaddy of ‘Tartan Noir’. (And this is the moment when half of the Scottish nation goes ‘told you so’).
Anyway, the writing is clear and fresh, dripping with dry wit, sometimes laugh out loud funny.
Laidlaw is the typical damaged detective, not happy, an observer of humanity and the great city of Glasgow. Understanding, yet powerless as the case he invest
Del Johnstone
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is as old as me, and now that I've read it, I feel slightly ashamed that it had been sitting on my shelf for almost two years before I got round to it. Maybe it's the whole 'familiarity breeds contempt' thing; I've only previously read one crime novel set in Glasgow, my home town, and it was an underwhelming experience. This, though, is magnificent. I've never read anything by McIlvanney before. His death, in 2015, brought tributes from writers far and wide, and was probably what plant ...more
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like hard-boiled mysteries, those interested in stories set in Glasgow
I came across Laidlaw when I was looking for a detective story set in London. I missed the mark on the setting (it's set in 1970's Glasgow), but came away with an excellent, concise, hard-boiled mystery. The cover design had me expecting a mediocre, predictable mystery, but Laidlaw was neither of those.

The story follows D.I. Jack Laidlaw on an investigation into the murder of a teenage girl. Laidlaw is a strong, sensitive type who frequently ruffles feathers with his unorthodox methods. He's as
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: keeper, second-hand
McIlvanney is what Irvine Welsh emulates, but rarely achieves. He is truly a master craftsman, and I could luxuriate in his words for ever. I don't even particularly like crime novels (hence the four stars rather than five), but this feels like home. Probably because it is home - I was a child in 1980's Glasgow, and this is the world of which I periodically caught terrifying glimpses. Laidlaw's right: you miss everything travelling by car; good old corporation buses and Shanks' pony are the best ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this... yeah strange Jack Laidlaw but so interesting ... the crime/mystery/process completely caught me by surprise for as I started the book it looked so, well, I KNOW who did it and how's this going to go. And it was terrific as we were wound through the process w/ Brian Hagharty...nice.

And the writing is yummy! No other word. It IS a bit downy in that Scottish sort of way so I must wait for a week or .. maybe days before I pick up another but yes YES. And I loved the accen
141115: i am not familiar with the 'tartan noir' of more recent crime authors, this is said a formative influence- i liked it, less on reflection, because by now 2015 the damaged detective is kind of cliche. as far as innovative plots go, this is more mediation on the underworld, the traditional, hard man morals, but you know who did the crime from the beginning. no surprises. did like some of the witty banter, the characters briefly sketched...
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Read Scotland 2019: Laidlaw: Spoiler Thread 18 11 Jun 13, 2019 05:45PM  
Read Scotland 2019: May/June: Laidlaw 7 17 Jun 11, 2019 02:45AM  
Read Scotland 2014: Laidlaw 1 14 Feb 05, 2014 01:15PM  
Pulp Fiction: William McIlvanney - Laidlaw 2 15 Aug 08, 2013 07:03AM  

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William McIlvanney was a Scottish writer of novels, short stories, and poetry. He was a champion of gritty yet poetic literature; his works Laidlaw, The Papers of Tony Veitch, and Walking Wounded are all known for their portrayal of Glasgow in the 1970s. He is regarded as "the father of 'Tartan Noir’" and has been described as "Scotland's Camus".

His first book, Remedy is None, was published in 1966 and won the G

Other books in the series

Jack Laidlaw (3 books)
  • The Papers of Tony Veitch (Jack Laidlaw, #2)
  • Strange Loyalties (Jack Laidlaw, #3)
“I don’t like questions. They invent the answers. The real answers are discovered, before you even know what the question is.” 2 likes
“I took acres of fertile ignorance up to that place. And they started to pour preconceptions all over it. Like forty tons of cement. No thanks. I got out before it hardened. I did a year, passed” 0 likes
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