Tony Black - Truth Lies Bleeding (3 stars)

Tony Black - Truth Lies Bleeding

Fifth outing for Scottish crime writers’ Scottish crime writer


Tony Black has a reputation as the Scottish crime writers’ Scottish crime writer, garnering praise from contemporaries to match impressive sales figures. This fifth outing demonstrates plenty of reasons why that’s the case, with fantastic narrative drive and some fine characterisation and dialogue. Black has moved away from his previous central character, private investigator Gus Dury, to deliver a more conventional police procedural featuring DI Rob Brennan, but this being Black, he pushes the format to its limits.

When a young teenage girl is found dismembered in a bin on Edinburgh’s Muirhouse estate, Brennan returns from psychiatric leave after the death of his brother to investigate, in a plot which twists in and out of drug abuse, child abduction and the world of professional hitmen. Brennan is like the Hyde to Rebus’ Jekyll in terms of Edinburgh crime fiction, a nasty, messed-up misanthrope, with a wife and daughter he can’t stand, a lover he’s having problems with, and a whole police station full of enemies.

While Brennan is beautifully sculpted out of hard rock, Black really excels with his depiction of Edinburgh’s low-life scum, delving into the lives of skag addicts, psychos, people traffickers and murderers, with visceral believability, all the more so for the author’s pinpoint accuracy in exposing the fearsome underbelly of Scotland’s capital city. If one or two of the plot strands don’t quite integrate themselves into the whole as they could, that’s a minor gripe in what is otherwise an accomplished and impressive piece of tartan noir.

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