Alan Parks- To Die In June- @alanjparks @canongatebooks

A woman enters a Glasgow police station to report her son missing, but no record can be found of the boy. When Detective Harry McCoy, seconded from the cop shop across town, discovers the family is part of the cultish Church of Christ’s Suffering, he suspects there is more to Michael’s disappearance than meets the eye. Meanwhile reports arrive of a string of poisonings of down-and-outs across the city. The dead are men who few barely notice, let alone care about – but, as McCoy is painfully aware, among this desperate community is his own father. Even as McCoy searches for the missing boy, he must conceal from his colleagues the real reason for his presence – to investigate corruption in the station. Some folk pray for justice. Detective Harry McCoy hasn’t got time to wait…

Undoubtedly a favourite time of the year when a new addition to this assured and consistently brilliant series is released, and having previously reviewed Alan Parks’ Bloody JanuaryFebruary’s Son, Bobby March Will Live ForeverThe April Dead and May God Forgive there is always an enjoyable tension in reading the next one. Will it be as good as the previous five? In what direction, and under what pressures will the author place his characters? Will everyone survive to the end of the book? Has the share price of Pepto Bismol been hit now McCoy’s stomach is not quite as dodgy?

It’s just glorious…

So let me just quickly assuage everyone’s fears, and say, that with no word of a lie, Parks has surpassed himself once again in this newest instalment, firmly rooting us again in the grim surrounds of 1970s Glasgow, and, as we expect, putting his main character, Detective Harry McCoy in a whole heap of trouble, with both personal and professional angst.

McCoy is put at the centre of three contrasting investigations, revolving around a suspected missing child that results in a suicide, a string of suspicious deaths in the down-and-out-community, and being tasked to uncover a web of bribery and corruption at another police station. All this is being played out against a ramping up of tensions in the gangland community, with of course, McCoy’s childhood friend Stevie Cooper weighing in, and a suspicion by McCoy that his involvement in one of these cases is taking on a sense of a particularly personal vendetta, and that old scores are looking to be settled. Quite how Parks manages to condense this all into a relatively slim page count always amazes me, as every plot strand in every book is given as much weight and presence as the others, with there never being a feeling that continuity and flow is disrupted or shortened as all of these strands work so coherently together. Indeed, you find yourself so absorbed as each one plays out, then when you are pivoted to another you have to mentally reset to take on board the darkness and emotional heft of each. Little wonder that McCoy himself always seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders…

McCoy is a wonderfully character, who seems to be the policing equivalent of the ‘tart with a heart’, catching us off guard with his mercurial personality, which blends hard-faced detective (albeit a bit squeamish) with a man who seems to have a natural empathy and depth of feeling for the more vulnerable victims of crime that he encounters. A few extra quid to a tout, turning a blind eye to a bent cop that was the victim of pernicious manipulation, and, on a much more personal level, throwing himself into the investigation of the suspicious vagrant deaths, where his own father is under threat. Aided and abetted by his trusty police sidekick Wattie, a character that is growing in stature from our first encounter of him as wet-behind-the-ears detective, and still at the beck and call of gangster Cooper, we see McCoy through different eyes, his sometimes selfishness, his dry wit, his unbending loyalty, and moments of self deprecation and doubt. The predictability of Harry McCoy is his unpredictability, and like an athlete (albeit with a heavier nicotine and alcohol habit) you never quite know which McCoy is going to turn up on the day. This has to be the essential joy of this series, as when you’re a reader of a longer running series, you begin to pre-empt how characters will behave, but Parks just loves to keep his readers a little more on the back foot, with both McCoy and the other regularly appearing characters. Speaking of which, I did miss Wattie’s other half in this one- you can’t beat a bit of sweary Mary too…

With its authentic setting, superb characterisation and razor sharp plotting, To Die In June, is just another sublime slice of  taut Scottish noir crime that, once again, kept me gripped from start to finish. Emotional, violent, darkly humorous, and containing all the essential elements of a compelling and absorbing crime thriller it was just an undiluted pleasure, as always, to re-enter McCoy’s world.

And also, that ending?

Where will it take the series next?

I literally cannot wait to find out.


Alan Parks worked in the music industry for over twenty years before turning to crime writing. His debut novel Bloody January was shortlisted for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, February’s Son was nominated for an Edgar Award, Bobby March Will Live Forever was picked as a Times Best Book of the Year, won a Prix Mystère de la Critique Award and won an Edgar Award. The April Dead was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and May God Forgive won the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2022. He lives and works in Glasgow.

(With thanks to the author for the ARC)

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