A serial killer seems to be roving Glasgow, targeting a range of victims from an elderly gypsy to a young female accountant and a heroin-addicted mercenary. In each case, the left hand is hacked off and sent to DCI Charlie Anderson, along with a playing card. It’s a high-profile case, made tougher by media involvement, pressure from the top brass, tensions on the team. But when Anderson’s own family is targeted by the killer, career concerns go out of the window. Now it’s life and death…
And so to Cutting Edge, the third book by Bill Daly, featuring curmudgeonly and delightfully old-fashioned police officer DCI Charlie Anderson. Having previously reviewed both Black Mail and Double Mortice, it is with a welcome degree of familiarity that I embarked on this newest in the series, and this series is probably as close to the mainstream British police procedural that Raven consistently wanders to. I’ll tell you why…
Having been quickly disillusioned, and quite frankly bored by, by the never ending bog standard police procedural series that some writers are known for, it was good to discover someone new. With echoes of John Harvey, the real lynchpin of this series to date is the central character of the curmudgeonly DCI Anderson. He’s a real old school copper who has no truck with technology- his computer is never switched on and he gets someone to print out his emails and handwrites his replies to them- and relies on good old fashioned copper’s instinct to get a result. Although he has the world weary air of a man on the brink of retirement, and appreciates he is a bit of a dinosaur, the working relationship between himself and two of his younger officers is used to good effect, as he appreciates their newer style of investigation, and they, his straightforward and instinctive policing.
The book is infused with a dry Glaswegian humour, and by bringing in a fast track Southern officer to the team there is a wealth of opportunity for gentle teasing and joshing, which lightens the very serious investigation they embark on. Anderson also begins to show a grudging respect for the world of psychological profiling through the intervention of no-nonsense profiler Dr Orr, who has the measure of him, and archly deals with his scepticism. Through his characterisation, Daly neatly depicts the ever changing and constantly evolving world of policing, offsetting the wealth of experience on Anderson’s part, set against the changing investigative techniques he is coming to terms with, and this works very well throughout the book.
I thought this was a well-planned and executed storyline, with an intuitive use of pace as Anderson himself experiences the unwelcome attention of the serial killer, and the tension that arises from this by encroaching on his personal life. Like my fellow crime readers, I enjoy trying to second-guess the author and play along with the investigation, and was delighted by the fact that Daly managed to conceal the killer and their motivation so well by using a disparate collection of victims, and wrong-footing both his protagonists and readers along the way. By using a combination of ‘normal’ and ‘criminal’ victims there was a real sense of where would this killer strike next, and why was Anderson so central to the killer’s thinking.
Having read a substantial number of ultimately disappointing long-running police procedural series, that have grown increasingly stale, I would urge you to seek out this series. Anderson is a truly engaging character, and the books are well-plotted with an affectionate but not completely rose-tinted view of Glasgow itself. Recommended.
(With thanks to Old St Publishing for the ARC)