THE CABINETMAKER was offered to me as a review book, no conditions, although it did come with a warning about the inclusion of some strong language. Even allowing for a tendency to think that the pile up of bodies in crime fiction is more discomforting than the occasional burst of swearing, there's not a lot that's particularly noticeable, especially compared to the levels that you find elsewhere.
This is an unusually styled novel, focusing on the 30 year friendship between cop John McDaid and Francis, cabinetmaker, footballer and father of Patrick who was bashed to death one night. Despite a number of suspects being identified, and the case being bought to trial, somehow the likely perpetrators walked away. In an interesting twist in the Scottish legal system most of them let off with a verdict of "not proven" as opposed to "not guilty".
McDaid and Francis are drawn together from the very moment they both meet as a result of the case. That friendship expands into their shared football life, and into the workshop where McDaid steps into the role of apprentice cabinetmaker, learning the skills that Francis has honed over a lifetime. Building a touching friendship along the way, through the failure of marriages, relationships and into older age. McDaid and his colleague climb the policing ladder, and Francis quietly continues his art form of furniture making, while they both regret the lack of justice for the death of Patrick.
Whilst there is a sense of drift and lack of purpose at points in the story, there's also positives in both their lives. Francis may end up separating from his wife, but they stay friends, and his work and his love of football seems to be sustaining him. McDaid eventually seems to have found a good, albeit slightly odd, relationship with an unlikely woman. He has mates, he has his job, and he has his increasing love of furniture making and wood work.
Obviously, there is the question of where all this is heading, and despite any doubts early on, it's not long before the friendship becomes engrossing and the story of McDaid and Francis involving despite that seeming lack of an obvious direction. Of course, it's crime fiction, so you know / hope / think that perhaps eventually Patrick's death with be solved and justice served. Once the story starts to twist and turn, how that is going to be resolved becomes even more intriguing.
THE CABINETMAKER is a slow burner. There are points where some judicious editing might up the pace a little and hold the reader's attention more firmly in its grasp. But it is intricate and in the main engaging. In looking past the murder, into the lives of those left behind, the fallout from the death of a young man on his family, and on a policeman who feels some responsibility for the failure of a court case, THE CABINETMAKER was a welcome change from standard crime fiction fare.