The foundation of a lot of the Scottish crime fiction which followed.

Book title



William McIlvanney

Standalone or series

Series (first instalment in a trilogy)

First time reading this author?


Why I picked this

Having heard lots of Scottish crime writers who I admire talking about McIlvanney I wanted to give it a try.

Review copy or purchase

A physical book gifted to me by one of the members of the Facebook group A Chain of Giving from my Amazon wishlist.

What it’s about

Laidlaw is a Glasgow police detective. He doesn’t fit the normal mould. He’s interested in the why as much as the who, and isn’t afraid to go against the grain to get to the heart of an investigation. He does gets results thought, which is why he’s given the freedom to pursue his own enquiry, apart from the main one, into the death of a young woman. The victim is the daughter of a man on the fringes of Glasgow’s gangland culture, and Laidlaw finds himself walking the line between working with the hard men looking to find the culprit, and trying to ensure that the murderer survives to fact justice.


It’s easy to see why McIlvanney’s detective inspired the likes of Ian Rankin, Denise Mina and Val McDermid. This is a detective who plays outside the rules, but all for the greater good. He has a respectful but cautious relationship with some of Glasgow’s underworld, which lets him get to the people who would never normally speak to the police.

However, having read the authors who followed in these footsteps this feels like quite a basic story in comparison. This is the first of a trilogy of books about Laidlaw, with a fourth – a prequel – due for release later this year written by Ian Rankin based on notes and outlines McIlvanney wrote before he died. It was with a view to reading that fourth book that I read this first one. I will try books two and three and hope that it grows on me enough to try the new book when it comes out, but I’m not in a hurry.


Rating: 3 out of 5.
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