Paying For It by Tony Black

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Paying For It by Tony Black

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Stylistic, gritty, and dark. A gripping crime thriller that hooks you in right til the shocking end.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Preface Publishing
ISBN: 978-1848090224

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Gus Dury is on the edge of self-destruction. He's an ex-journalist, his wife is divorcing him, and he's drinking himself into oblivion. When his friend Col asks him to help look into his son Billy's murder Gus accepts. He finds himself dragged into the seedy criminal underworld of Edinburgh, battling with Russian gangsters as well as his own personal inner demons.

As he struggles with a seemingly impossible case to solve he uses his old journalistic contacts to try to discover the truth of Billy's death. He becomes embroiled in a world of prostitution, human-trafficking and political corruption, and it seems more and more unlikely that he will emerge from it all alive and will either be silenced by the criminals he's investigating, or killed by his own addictions.

It took me a few chapters to get a good feel for the book. It's very stylistically written, with throwaway sentences and conversations loaded with Scottish slang. This gets easier to read as you find an ear for the language being used. Gus himself is a hard man, he's very much a working class man, but he peppers his speech with literary quotes. He's a coarse and selfish alcoholic yet we also see a more vulnerable, caring side to him too. So at times you don't like him at all, but at others you're willing him on to succeed. I think the well written characters are what make this a successful novel, you care about what happens, you believe in the dangers they're facing, and so you're caught up in the action of the story.

The story is very atmospheric, and portrays a very different side of Edinburgh to that you'd find in, for example, Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street novels. There's a dark, grungy feel to it, the hidden crime world that's flourishing in the shadow of the tourist attractions. It's also a well plotted novel. I didn't guess the ending at all. I felt that the supporting stories underneath the main crime line worked well. We see Gus dealing with his memories of childhood abuse from his father as he faces up to the fact that his father is now dying, as well as him dealing with his fall from grace as a top journalist, his subsequent alcoholism and the breakdown of his marriage.

There is some coarse language through the book, as well as shocking scenes of violence, but if you're not too squeamish for that then it's a debut novel you should definitely try.

Our thanks to FMcM on behalf of Preface/Random House for sending a copy to Bookbag. We also have a review of His Father's Son by Tony Black.

More Edinburgh crime action can be found in the Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus novels.

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