Cover Image: Laidlaw


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A stone cold classic of Scottish crime writing, that paved the way for the explosion in talent that we've seen in modern times. Ground-breaking and ahead of its time (probably by 15-20 years in several ways), McIlvanney's first crime novel is a precursor to classic Scottish TV drama Taggart, and the books of Ian Rankin and Val McDermid. He delves into Scottish society through the prism of a detective tale, not shying away from the bigotry and troubles. A superb novel that deserves to be reissued and read by a whole new generation of readers.
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Laidlaw is the first book by William McIllvanney and I was blown away bu his talent.  Despite this book being written decades ago, it was as fresh as if it had been written more recently.  I was pulled in to this story immediately and did not want to put the book down.  I look forward to reading more books in the laidlaw series.  5 stars
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I don't like writing style, the characters, or the subject matter. Sorry not sorry but it's not worth to explain that it's a depressing book.
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I think this Scottish mystery, originally published in the late 1970s, would greatly benefit from a preface for this re-release! Surprisingly, there is a lot here that still feels quite modern, but there are other more dated aspects that I am certain will greatly offend some readers. This book, the first in a trilogy, falls under the Tartan Noir subgenre, and the titular detective will feel familiar to modern readers - he's a bit of a smarty-pants, philandering alcoholic detective that is allowed to cowboy it through his Glasglow precinct because of his positive results. Unfortunately, I never felt charmed by Laidlaw, though I think that is the intention.... he's not completely unlikable, but his likable moments are too few and far between for me. 

The villain here, especially, is what dates this book the most. And what is sure to cause the most offense, though perhaps that could be somewhat mitigated with a really stellar preface... The large cast-size slows the action down quite a bit in the beginning, but what really drove me nuts was the head-hopping from perspective to perspective in a scene. There are two more books in the trilogy, but this one ends on a complete enough note that I am not dying to get my hands on them... However, I will be keeping my eye out for them in an audio format, because I think that with listening to the accent, I would probably be more willing to gloss over the issues that I had...
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I liked this crime procedural. It was good and gripping even though we knew from the beginning who the killer was. We can imagine why the murder happened but it’s never spelled out and there doesn’t seem to be much empathy towards the girl who was murdered. Laidlaw is a seasoned detective that strives to find the humanity in people to uncover the truth in heinous crimes.The main gist of this book seems to be the relationship that builds between a seasoned oft misunderstood sincere detective and a rookie assigned to him for training. I liked this book but have a lot of complaints. Most of the women portrayed were either victims or shrews. The male characters were sometimes over complicated or overly simplistic bullies and morons. The other problem I had with this is there was a lot of vague imagery. The dialogue was truly Scottish and I understood most. The problem I had as an American is that the cultural references were unknown to me and there were a lot. There was also a Scottish vernacular that not only was unfamiliar to me but was not in the dictionary. In many cases a reference was made and I had no idea what it referred to so was lost. There were a lot of British idiomatic expressions and metaphors that as a non-British person, I didn’t understand and it took away from the story. I liked the realistic dialogue but reading this was a lot of work for the anticlimactic ending. Also, the first chapter was almost incomprehensible for me. Maybe I’m daft but after reading the first chapter, I wanted to quit reading the entire book, luckily I finished it because I did enjoy the characters. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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The temptation with crime novels is to read them quickly, staying up late to find out who did it.  With Laidlaw, I kept finding myself wanting to slow down.  In part this was because a lot of dialogue is rendered in dialect, and some of the Glaswegian speech took me a second reading.  Mostly, though, it was because this is the sort of writing you want to savor, appreciating the insightful turns of phrase and skillful use of language.  This is more of a procedural than a whodunit; the plot is less about identifying the killer and more about finding him and making sure any of a number of other motivated parties don't kill him first. Laidlaw is a complicated man navigating the gritty criminal side of Glasgow with an understanding of the gray area between good and bad.  This is the first book of a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the others.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a digital advance review copy.
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Laidlaw is a re-release of the original police procedural by William McIlvanney. Originally published in 1977, this re-formatting from Canongate on their Black Thorn imprint was released in paperback and ebook format April 2nd 2020.

There has been an ocean of commentary on tartan noir (and Scandi-noir and all their siblings). I have heard Laidlaw (there are three books in all) referred to as Scottish noir (or at least a precursor) and while that might be strictly speaking true, it is certainly gritty and brooding and Scottish, it's much more than that. I love crime novels with imperfect protagonists, Laidlaw is that in spades.

One of the things that sets this one apart is that McIlvanney was a remarkably adept writer, precise and masterful. There is not one fumble in the book. There is a spareness to the prose (the author was also quite well known as a poet). The characterizations are rich, varied, and precisely rendered. This might be the best crime novel I've read; it's certainly one of the best at any rate.

That being said, this is a relentlessly dark book. It's violent, with raw language and brutality. It had been a decade or more since I read it last and though quite unflinching, it has aged surprisingly well. It's a beautifully written book. I'm glad to see it being presented to a new generation of readers.

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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William If Ilvanney, Laidlaw, Black Thorn, April 2, 2020.

A literate, witty novel first published in the 70s, William Mc Ilvanney's Laidlaw, recently re-released by Black Thorn, set the foundation for the Tartan Noir sub-genre of crime fiction.  Detective Jack Laidlaw is a layered and nuanced character, whose philosophies of life and policing give shape to this novel and the two other volumes in the Laidlaw trilogy Mc Ilhanney wrote and set in Glasgow.

The crime in Laidlaw is the murder of a young girl who disappeared after going to the disco one evening.  Her family and friends are questioned by the "polis.". Several Glasgow hard men are suspects, as well, and the reader is introduced them and their machinations.  (Be aware that there is a certain amount of vividly described violence here.)

I have not relished a novel or character as much as I did Laidlaw in years, and I regret that I did not make the acquaintance much sooner.  Highly recommended.

Thank you to William Mc Ilvanney, Black Thorn, and NetGalley for the ARC.  The opinions expressed are my own.
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Laidlaw is a larger than life memorable character. I loved the setting and the use of the local dialect. Glasgow was well and truly brought to life. This is a gritty raw detective story and I really enjoyed it. 

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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Jack Laidlaw #1

Set in Glasgow in the 1970's.

A girl has been murdered in Kelvingrove park. They know who the killer is, theynjust need to find him. But they are  ot the only ones looking for the killer. Thenfictims father wants to deal out his own justice and involves Glasgows underworld. Laidlaw is partnered with new recruit, DC Harkness. 

DI Jack Laidlaw is misunderstood by his colleagues. He does not like DI Milligan. He doesn't really like authority. There is Glasgow dialogue which I always like when an author uses the dialogue from the area they are writing about. It makes it more realistic.  I liked the authors writing style. This is a dark and gripping read that also has some dark humor. It's action packed and full of twists.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Cannongate and the author William Mcilvanney for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Jack Laidlaw is going after a killer.  A young woman is found brutally murdered in a park.   Laidlaw is extremely unorthodox in the way he is driven to find justice for the victims.  This victim happens to be the daughter of a violent criminal .. and father is demanding the killer be found or he will find him himself.

It's a fast start with a teenage boy, brandishing a knife, is running through the woods ... fleeing the murder scene.  What reason could this young man have for murdering this woman?  Who he is ... what he has done .... and most importantly why ... remains to be seen.

In this first book of  the series, the reader is introduced to Laidlaw's personal life.... his soon to be ex-wife, his lover, good friend Brian Harkness, and multiple others that he meets and greets along the way.  There are an additional 2 books in this series.

This is a Scottish Noir written and set in the 70s. Although not a contemporary story, it has aged well. The characters are skillfully written and have stood the test of time. The plot is a bit complex, but becomes easier to understand the more you read.

Many thanks to Canongate / Black Thorn / Netgalley for the digital copy of this crime fiction.  Read and reviewed voluntarily, opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
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I would like to thank William McIlvanney, Canongate and NetGalley for a copy of this book and a chance to review Laidlaw.

This is a republication of the first book in the Jack Laidlaw series. Its great crime fiction set in Glasgow in the 1970s it is dark with Laidlaw using unorthodox methods to solve the crime. I read this on holidays, it’s a good read and I will read the following two books in the series. Definitely recommend to lovers of crime fiction.
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I liked this complex and well written story, it's gripping and entertaining.
Even if it's not recently written it aged well and I liked the plot, the characters and the solid mystery.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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This is quite good, and many have already indicated as much in their reviews -- it was originally published in 1992. I'll just recommend it to mystery fans.
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In 1966, Scottish novelist, poet and essayist William McIlvanney (1936-2015) won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for his debut novel Remedy is None.  In 1975, he won the Whitbread Novel Award for Docherty, a gritty piece of historical fiction about a Scottish mining family in the early 20th Century.  Having thus been anointed as a “literary” writer, the publication of crime novel Laidlaw in 1977 came as a surprise, if not a shock. What was McIlvanney doing, putting his literary credentials at risk by writing a detective novel?  Laidlaw would be followed by two other instalments in a trilogy featuring the eponymous Glasgow detective, establishing his creator (with the benefit of hindsight) as the father of “tartan noir”, an ongoing inspiration for the likes of Ian Rankin and Val McDermid.   The reaction to the publication of the novel in the 1970s, however, shows that a certain suspicion towards “genre fiction” has long been an unsavoury aspect of the literary world.  Reading Laidlaw, on the other hand, proves that why this snobbery is completely off the mark.

At face value, the novel is a tribute to both the American “hardboiled” genre and to Continental fiction (a là Simenon), with which it shares several recognisable tropes.  A young woman is sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in Glasgow and D.I. Jack Laidlaw is assigned to the case. Laidlaw, who keeps “Kierkegaard, Camus and Unamuno” hidden in a drawer in his desk “like caches of alcohol”, is an eccentric figure with unusual investigative methods, “a potentially violent man who hates violence”.  When constable Harkness is asked by his superiors to partner up with Laidlaw, he is expected not just to help the older detective but also to report on him and keep his wilder behaviour in check.   The case leads the duo through the seedy underbelly of Glasgow, where Laidlaw enjoys the grudging respect of dubious figures.  But the “polis” are not the only once seeking the murderer.  The relatives of the victim are looking for him to avenge her death, whilst criminals associated with him want him out of the way because of the unwelcome attention the crime has brought to their activities.  The investigation turns into a race against time, with the murderer in danger of becoming the new victim.

Despite its nods to the genre, McIlvanney brings to this novel some idiosyncratic twists.  One of them is the setting – no longer an American metropolis, or London (another “capital” of crime fiction) but 1970s Glasgow with which Laidlaw (and possibly, his creator) seems to have a love-hate relationship.   The Glaswegian backdrop is evoked not only through the descriptions within the novel, but also through the judicious use of dialect.

Then there’s the plot.  Unlike your typical whodunnit, the murderer is revealed quite early on, as is his motive.  The reader’s pleasure does not derive from the unmasking of the perpetrator but, rather, from learning how Laidlaw will get to his man and from a curiosity as to whether others will get to the ‘prey’ before he does.  This is as much of a thriller as a “detective” novel.  

Laidlaw also gives McIlvanney the opportunity to explore the same socialist themes which underlie his other “non-crime” work.  The conversations between the inspector and an increasingly respectful Harkness give voice to pithy social commentary which lays bare the bigotry (whether fuelled by class, religion or other factors) within the world McIlvanney portrays.

What gives Laidlaw is peculiar style, however, is its use of language – the unlikely, yet arresting, images which pepper the text.  The victim’s father has a face which looks “like an argument you couldn’t win”.  The police mortuary is “the tradesmen’s entrance to the Court”, where “the raw materials of justice” are delivered, “corpses that are precipitates of strange experience, alloys of fear and hate and anger and love and viciousness and bewilderment, that the Court will take and refine into comprehension”.   Laidlaw is sickened when he realises that “the first law is real estate, and people are its property”.  This is crime fiction, but it is also poetry.
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What a character William Mcllvanney has created in Laidlaw, do you like him? Do you even understand him? Maybe neither but you are left in no doubt who the main man is in Glasgow. With true grit realistic thoughts on old time Glasgow and its dark side of life this is well written and the broad accent language is not a hinderance but a definite enhancement of the story. No its not all action thriller but it is still thrilling. Full of characters that would be welcome in any book with surprising metaphors bringing them to life it reads at times like a Dickens character being described, pure joy and light relief
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I’ve been aware of McIlvanney for years, but never found my way to trying him - this reissue of Laidlaw was a great opportunity to break my duck, and i am SO pleased that i’ve been able to take it. Laidlaw is in a way rather cliched, but only because everyone else has stolen from it since. What’s most startling is actually how modern the language feels, which is in direct contrast to the 70s setting, the language used by the characters, and the at times stereotypical gay characters and latent homophobia from the majority of the police (this may not have changed as much as it needs, some would argue)..
There’s a complexity to the language used - sometimes excessively flowery, sometimes wonderfully evocative. The lack of a whodunnit will deter some - it’s clear from the off who is responsible and that’s not the point. The journey is all important, and that has a propulsive momentum that sees you through to the end.

I understand this is the first part of a trilogy - i look forward to reading the next reissues.
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Laidlaw is a different type of detective, he is Scottish and damaged.  I found the style of writing quite difficult, but this did not take away from the story.
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I didn’t love this.  I knew it was a reissue and was interested in it’s reputation as the start of Scotland Noir but it felt really dated, not a lot of action or investigation.  I’m glad I checked it out but probably won’t read anything else in the series.  It’s not bad, just slower and not for me.

I received a copy from Netgalley and the publisher for a fair review.
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This is a republication of a 1977 book, the first in the Laidlaw series and I’m not sure as a crime fiction fan how I’ve missed this series! The book starts in an intriguing way with a ‘monsters’ journey through Glasgow. Later on a body of a young female is found in Kelvingrove Park which DI Laidlaw and DC Harkness investigate. This story is told from several perspectives including Laidlaw and 

There’s a lot to like in this book. The plot is engrossing and intriguing, it’s well written in a style as gritty as the city. Laidlaw is likeable and fascinating. He’s bleak, abrasive and a paradox of a man and not easy to live with as his wife Ena will attest. I really like his brand of philosophy which is his own and therefore unique! Harkness is a good character too and the pair develop a bond based on insults. There are some excellent analogies in the storytelling and some very good descriptions. There are nice touches of wry humour which provides a contrast to the bleak story and to some of the harshest characters and there’s very realistic and colourful dialogue between them. The book build well to a dramatic conclusion. 

Glasgow provides a great atmospheric backdrop and the city reveals itself vividly through the storytelling and the ‘Weegie’ ’ dialect. It shows a deep religious divide demonstrated clearly through allegiance to the city’s football teams. A lot of the Glaswegian men in the story are very domineering and the women cowed which is more a reflection of the time of the books first publication than today. 

The only negative is that readers will need to know something about the late 70’s or some references will be meaningless. For example, with no disrespect to David Essex but you won’t find girls bedroom walls decorated with his face in 2020! 

Overall, I loved it. It’s twisty with really good characters and a believable plot. I’ll definitely want to read more about Laidlaw. 

Many thank to NetGalley and Black Thorn.
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