4 May 2012

Review: THE HANGING SHED, Gordon Ferris

  • Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 512 KB
  • Print Length: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Corvus (March 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004G5YVT6
  • Source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

Glasgow, 1946: The last time Douglas Brodie came home it was 1942 and he was a dashing young warrior in a kilt. Now, the war is over but victory's wine has soured and Brodie's back in Scotland to try and save childhood friend Hugh Donovan from the gallows. Everyone thought Donovan was dead, shot down in the war. Perhaps it would have been kinder if he had been killed. The man who returned was unrecognizable: mutilated, horribly burned. Donovan keeps his own company, only venturing out for heroin to deaden the pain of his wounds. When a local boy is found raped and murdered, there is only one suspect...
Donovan claims he's innocent but a mountain of evidence says otherwise. Despite the hideousness of the crime, ex-policeman Brodie feels compelled to try and help his one-time friend. Working with Donovan's advocate Samantha Campbell, Brodie trawls both the mean streets of the Gorbals and the green hills of western Scotland in their search for the truth. What they find is an unholy alliance of church, police and Glasgow's deadliest razor gang, happy to slaughter to protect their dark secrets. As time runs out for the condemned man, and the tally of murdered innocents rises, Brodie reverts to his wartime role as a trained killer. It's them or him.

My take

The book begins strongly with a description of Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow. Douglas Brodie is hurtling through the night to Glasgow on the Royal Scot. It is April 1946 and he has had a phone call from a friend he thought had died in the war. The friend is in desperate trouble, convicted of murdering a young boy, and scheduled for the hanging shed.

I warmed to Brodie straight away and I liked the way the author revealed his background little by little.
I also liked the authentic feel of the setting. So much of the detail of like in post-war Glasgow rang true and had resonances for me.

I also liked Gordon Ferris' style of writing. Here are some snippets I marked:

    I fondly inspected the building. There seemed to be no bomb damage, and the two statues stood proudly in their niches along the line of the parapet. Stepping inside to the solid carpentry and shining counter was like coming home. I told the librarian I was researching a book about the trial and wanted access to the newspapers for the period of the trial and one month either side. So from November 1945 through to today, 4 April 1946.
    That got a laugh from her, and then she was as good as her word. A great plateful of powdered-egg omelette, black pudding and tattie scones was served up with a flourish. She must have used up her ration coupons for a week. She sat there sipping her own tea, elbows on the table watching me proprietorially as I devoured the lot. Toast was grilled and buttered for me. All I had to do was wash it down with the steady flow of life-giving tea.
    It was a typical two-roomed house. Kitchen cum living room and good room beyond. The curtain was pulled across the bed in the wall in the living room. We sat at a tiny wooden table with a blue and white checked waxcloth covering. The place was heavy with smoke.
So I was hooked almost from the beginning.
THE HANGING SHED also establishes a partnership between Brodie and defence advocate Samantha Campbell and both characters come alive.

My rating: 4.8

I'll be looking for more by Gordon Ferris, in particular the next in the Brodie series BITTER WATER.

THE HANGING SHED was shortlisted for the CWA Ellis Peters Award for Historical crime fiction in 2011.

About the Author

Gordon Ferris has been a computer programmer for the RAF, an executive in the Ministry of Defence and a consultancy partner in the banking division of Price Waterhouse. Maybe that's where he gets his interest in guns and crooks. Gordon grew up in Scotland and now flits between London and Switzerland.
Author website.


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - I can see why you got hooked. I did just reading your review of it! Thanks too for including those snippets; just enough to make me want to read this one...

Maxine Clarke said...

I've avoided this book for some reason, probably the title. It was free on Kindle in the UK at one point, then offered by the publisher, but it did not appeal. Your review is making me waver! I had better check out the library.

Kerrie said...

Maxine, I was hesitant too for some reason, but really unjustifiably.


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