Review - WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO, Liam McIlvanney

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Book Title: 
Where the Dead Men Go
ISBN: 
9780571239856
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Gerry Conway
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Book Synopsis

After three years in the wilderness, hardboiled reporter Gerry Conway is back at his desk at the Glasgow Tribune. But three years is a long time on newspapers and things have changed - readers are dwindling, budgets are tightening, and the Trib's once rigorous standards are slipping. Once the paper's star reporter, Conway now plays second fiddle to his former protege, crime reporter Martin Moir.

But when Moir goes AWOL as a big story breaks, Conway is dispatched to cover a gangland shooting. And when Moir's body turns up in a flooded quarry, Conway is drawn deeper into the city's criminal underworld as he looks for the truth about his colleague's death. Braving the hostility of gangsters, ambitious politicians and his own newspaper bosses, Conway discovers he still has what it takes to break a big story. But this is a story not everyone wants to hear as the city prepares to host the Commonwealth Games and the country gears up for a make-or-break referendum on independence.

In this, the second book in the Conway Trilogy, McIlvanney explores the murky interface of crime and politics in the new Scotland.

Book Review

"Professor Liam McIlvanney, the son of novelist William McIlvanney, was born in Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, and studied at Glasgow and Oxford Universities. After ten years lecturing in Scottish and Irish literature at the University of Aberdeen, he moved to Dunedin in New Zealand to teach at the University of Otago. He lectures in Scottish literature, culture and history, and on Irish-Scottish literary connections, and holds the Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies chair at the University."

WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO is set in Glasgow, but there is a hat tip to New Zealand in that Gerry Conway's partner, and mother of his beloved youngest boy, is a New Zealander. Which country she returns to when things get dangerous for anybody too close to Conway. The second book in the series, Conway is a newspaper reporter in a world where newspapers are increasingly marginalised. In a country that is about to host the Commonwealth Games, vote on their independence and in the middle of a brutal gangland conflict. He's a loving father to his youngest son, and the two boys from his first marriage. He's a good friend to his ex-wife, and he's a caring man, despite being more than a bit jaded about the state of the world.

There is a fabulous sense of place and character in this book. Conway is quintessentially Scottish and an old newspaper man. His time in the wilderness in PR seems like a bad dream every time he looks back, even though his return to the Tribune has him marked down on the pecking order and wondering about his future. Everyone who plays a part in this story makes sense, even the dead man, who seems to manage to maintain his influence long after death. Conway is dedicated, determined and single-minded in chasing down the truth about Moir's death, even though every revelation seems to suggest that he didn't know his old friend as well as he thought.

Woven into the believable scenario of an investigative journalist, investigating, WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO looks at the question of influence, and money. The fight for survival for newspapers, for journalists and for politicians all coincide with the fight for survival of the gangs. Justifications, reasons and ultimate aims might be slightly different, but there's something chillingly similar about motivations, and even methods in some places.

Nicely balanced between character, place, plot and pace, WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO is a fast-paced thriller. Well written, this book takes a believable scenario and fleshes it out into the underbelly of a society whilst simultaneously looking at the loss of influence of newspapers and the way that communities can be pulled apart by economic circumstances. WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO is the follow up to ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN, but it works even if you've not read the earlier book.

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