I work as a library cataloguer so see countless books everyday. So… it stands to reason that this is where I find the books I want to read next. Not this time.
I belong to a social networking site called ‘CrimeSpace‘, a place where readers and writers of crime fiction meet. I saw a book recommended by one of MY favourite authors, Shirley Wells. Anything she recommends I am willing to try. I wasn’t disappointed!
“The hanging shed” is the first novel I’ve read by Gordon Ferris. Set in post-war Glasgow, Scotland, the overall tone is dark, with overtones of noir.
Douglas Brodie is a battle weary WWII veteran and ex-cop who takes up journalism after the war. He lives alone in war-torn London with his bottle of whiskey. That is until he receives a telephone call from a childhood friend back home in Glasgow. Hugh Donovan is in prison awaiting the death penalty. He asks Brodie if he will come to visit him and help to prove his innocence.
Brodie’s return to Glasgow brings back painful memories of first love and betrayal. Hugh Donovan stole his girl Fiona. He has never forgiven him. But war changes people and no one is more changed than Hugh Donovan. He was shot down and was terribly burned and disfigured. The once handsome man is now nothing more than a memory. He lives in constant pain and people find it difficult to look at him. Brodie cannot forget Hugh’s betrayal but despite himself he finds that the case against Hugh is full of holes…
Brodie meets with Hugh’s lawyer and together they set about trying to appeal Hugh’s case before his date with the gallows. Samantha Donovan is a workaholic with little in the way of social life. She invites Brodie to stay at her house whilst he investigates the case and a deep friendship develops between them.
They soon discover that Hugh was set up to take the fall for someone else. But who? The story is much more grisly and multi-layered than even they could have imagined! Can they save Hugh in time? Innocent people are being killed and Brodie finds that he must again revert to his army training to hunt the villains and defend himself and Sam.
By turns reminiscent of writers such as Ian Rankin and Dick Francis, this is a story with a very strong protagonist who is admirable and flawed in equal measure. The characterization is strong and the novel aptly portrays the dark side of the human psyche. The setting of gritty post-war Glasgow combined with contrasting beautiful vistas of the Arran Islands makes for interesting fare. Brodie and Sam are a pair that I would like to meet again between the pages of a novel.
Thanks Gordon Ferris for a great read. Thanks Shirley Wells for the recommendation!