Friday, July 26, 2013
Review of Laidlaw by William McIlvanney (Canongate, 1977/2013)
Laidlaw is the first book in what many consider a classic crime trilogy. First published in 1977, the book set out the blueprint for a generation of Scottish crime fiction detectives, both on print and TV: independent, contrary, hard, compassionate, world-weary, committed, reflexive and with a disastrous home-life; always a gamut of paradoxical traits. It’s easy to understand the book’s reputation. It’s a very engaging tale spun by a wordsmith and there’s very little to fault. The style is all tell and no show, with nice prose and excellent dialogue. The characterisation is keenly observed, with even very minor characters vividly drawn in just a few words. The plot has a strong hook and a nice blend of action, feints, twists and dashes of philosophical reflection. And McIlvanney spins a strong sense of place, time and social context. Overall, an excellent read that is as much about the human condition as it is a crime story.