Tony Black has a taken a break from journalist turned Private Eye Gus Dury in his earlier four novels to write a police procedural featuring Edinburgh cop Rob Brennan. Comparisons are obviously going to be drawn between Dury and Brennan so let's get them out of the way up front. Dury is an outsider, the sort of bloke that trouble will turn right across heavy traffic to have a go at. Brennan's a family man, albeit one that's been indulging in a bit of extra-marital with the police psychologist. One that's having trouble coming to grips with a teenage daughter, and who obviously needs to sort it out with his wife. He's also suffering badly over the unsolved murder of his brother. There's a distinct possibility that trouble for Brennan will be wielding a handbag, looking for a word in his shell-like.
Brennan has just returned to work when he's given the case to solve. The body of a young girl in a dumpster in an Edinburgh alleyway seems somehow sort of predictable. But as her identity is revealed, her family found, and the fact that she'd recently had a baby of which there is absolutely no sign revealed, Brennan finds himself with quite a complicated problem to solve. Not helped because his boss is climbing the slippery ladder of career achievement and is more than happy to grind her high heels in the head of a subordinate that she can't even pretend to like.
Scottish noir at it's absolute and utter best, TRUTH LIES BLEEDING is a rollercoaster of the personal and professional, dark and light, desperation and determination. The personal relationships swirling around Brennan are drawn beautifully, and the fight to solve the crime, and find this missing baby is just the right mix of frustration and desperation, intuition and good old fashioned detecting. I must admit I did start to wonder at one point what it is about women and Brennan - just about every female character in this book wanted at or rid of him.
Aside from that one observation TRUTH LIES BLEEDING was very difficult to put down. There's none of the lunacy of the Dury books, and despite Brennan being yet another complex and confronted policeman making mistakes, up against the world, put upon and misunderstood, he's a very solid example of those characteristics. Likeable and annoying, understandable and completely inexplicable, Brennan's very believable. I can't remember who said it or where it was, but I do always remember something about police characters needing that sort of conflict in their lives in order to explain their drive to succeed - solve the case. Certainly that idea rang in my head as I read this book, but at no stage is the conflict overdone or overblown. There are echoes of some other well known Scottish detectives from the same location, but Black has set Brennan in the margins of Edinburgh society, sad, grim and surrounded by a lot that seems hopeless, and then he gives him a spark of something that could just mean he's going to get his act together.