l1 Glasgow, 1953, is a hard city at a hard time. The war may be over but the battle for the streets is just beginning, and shady investigator Lennox is the man in the middle. Standing somewhere between legal and illegal, between honour and greed, Lennox can only be certain of one thing: this is a place where only the toughest and most ruthless survive. The McGahern twins were on the way up until Tam, the brains of the outfit, becomes the victim of a vicious contract killing. Tam’s brother Frankie turns to Lennox to find out who killed his twin. Lennox refuses. Later that night, Frankie turns up dead, and Lennox finds himself in the frame for murder. The only way of proving his innocence is to solve the crime – but he’ll have to dodge men more deadly than Glasgow’s crime bosses before he gets any answers…

A cracking start to a potentially great series and a book which further compounds my disbelief that Russell is so underated in the crime genre as his Jan Fabel series is compelling reading! Anyway, I digress, ‘Lennox’ does for 50‘s Glasgow what Arnott did for 60‘s London with the same assortment of dodgy gangsters, bent coppers and the wonderfully seedy underbelly of post war society. I think what sets this apart is not only the brilliant re-creation of the period but the strength of the characterisation and the blackly comic asides that permeate the book. I liked the fact that Lennox is Canadian and views everything that’s thrown at him with the air of an outsider but by the same token how he has overcome this status to mix with some, by and large, unsavoury characters and who is man enough to take a beating! Teamed with a pacy plot this series is one to watch and I was just itching to read the next…

 l3Glasgow in the 1950s – private investigator Lennox is keeping a low profile, enjoying a secret fling with the daughter of shady bookie and greyhound breeder MacFarlane. When MacFarlane is found bludgeoned to death, Lennox is a suspect. Luckily, he has a solid gold alibi – he was in bed with the victim’s daughter. Lennox is quickly drawn into hunting the killer. It turns out MacFarlane was into some seriously dodgy stuff. One of Glasgow’s notorious Three Kings, crime boss Willie Sneddon, is involved and he’s not a man Lennox wants to cross. But there’s an even bigger player lurking in the shadows and it looks like Lennox is going to get his fingers burnt, badly…

 The bleak dark violent atmosphere of the first book seeps it’s way into this follow-up- and it’s great! Grubby, earthy and once again peopled with a shady bunch of characters, Russell perfectly evokes the look and feel of Glasgow among it’s seedier elements. The dry wit that ran through the first continues with perfectly placed examples of the Glasgow vernacular pitched against Lennox, our laconic wise-cracking Canadian hero- a series that will run and run and with an ending that will ensure that you will be swiftly seeking out the next in the series ‘The Deep Dark Sleep’…

l2Human remains are recovered from the bottom of the River Clyde. Not an unusual occurrence, but these have been sleeping the deep, dark sleep for eighteen years. Suddenly Glasgow’s underworld is buzzing with the news that the dredged up bones belong to Gentleman Joe Strachan, Glasgow’s most successful and ruthless armed robber. When Isa and Violet, Strachan’s daughters, hire Lennox to find out who has been sending them large sums of cash each year, on the anniversary of Strachan’s most successful robbery, his instincts tell him that this job spells trouble and will take him back into the dark world of the Three Kings – the crime bosses who run the city. He takes the job nevertheless. And soon learns that ignoring his instincts might just cost him his life…

The third in Craig Russell’s excellent ‘Lennox’ series and I would say one of the darkest so far. Our silver-tongued, justice seeking private eye encounters more than one or two physical scrapes through business and pleasure when he takes on two cases that will test him to the hilt. Is it really criminal mastermind Gentleman Joe Strachan that languishes below the grey choppy waters of the Clyde who appears to be sending messages and issuing death warrants from beyond the grave, or are there other forces at work? And what links an American movie star with an aristocrat’s son in a positively salacious incident of blackmail? And how the jiggins is Lennox going to sort it all out whilst still in pursuit of his delectable landlady Fiona, fighting off commando window cleaners and juggling the demands of the Three Kings who rule Glasgow with their iron fists? It’s no walk in the park as our battered and bruised hero grapples with his toughest cases yet with a wonderfully violent denouement that sees Lennox dispensing justice in his own inimitable style but with what consequence? This series just gets better and better in my eyes- accomplished plotting, great characterisation melded with a perfect balance of grim violence and wise-cracking dialogue.

l4November 1956. The world is in turmoil. While the Suez Crisis and the Hungarian Uprising boil away in the background, Lennox has more immediate concerns, like getting his personal life, and his business, back on track. So, when a woman comes into Lennox’s office and hires him to follow her husband, whom she suspects of leading a double life, it seems the perfect case. Straightforward, typical – if a little sordid – and most of all, legal. But as he begins to dig deeper, Lennox realizes that this is no ordinary case of marital infidelity. He finds himself caught by the police in a room with a dead body; pursued by shadowy members of the intelligence community; and once more a target of the Three Kings, the crime bosses who between them run Glasgow’s underworld. Lennox must again draw on the violent, war-damaged part of his personality that he has tried to keep buried, in order to survive…

Having thought that ‘The Deep Dark Sleep’ was more dark in tone than the previous two ‘Dead Men and Broken Hearts’ has gazumped it as Lennox finds himself in the throes of an almost existential crisis. With his personal relationships causing him no end of angst and a seemingly straightfoward case of marital infidelity devolving into an infinitely more complicated caper, Lennox really begins to question his place and occupation on the mean streets of Glasgow. As he tussles with a shadowy world of Hungarian emigres and a positively Scarlet Pimpernel-esque conman he once again finds himself on the wrong side of the law and living on his wits to untangle the nefarious mysteries of the cases he’s involved in. Calling on the personal services on one of my favourite characters Twinkletoes McBride (whose chosen form of torture usually involves feet and boltcutters) there is the development of a wonderful ‘Odd Couple’ humour that lightens the relief of this sombre tale but Mr Russell ramps up the personal pain for Lennox right at the end of the book with….well I can’t tell you what…but it’s very sad indeed although beautifully done.  A great series which I implore you to read.

I am now feeling slightly bereft having reached the end of my many hours spent in the company of Lennox and the brilliant writing of Mr Russell. When’s the next one- it can’t come soon enough!

Have a look at this wonderfully witty interview with Mr Russell himself at: http://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/blog/2012/07/04/quercus-couch-craig-russell/

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