Laidlaw by William McIlvanny

I read and enjoyed this book in 2019. I’d abandoned the audiobook back in 2013 after listening to the first chapter and thinking that the Scottish accent of the narrator (William McIlvanny) was a little too dense for my late night listening (before dropping off to sleep). This year, 2019, I purchased the eBook edition, and matched the audiobook with it, and then found I could follow the story more easily. I was determined to read the story. Also, I noticed, after reading the text via the eBook, that the first chapter of the story had a fractured structure, and that was the reason I had difficulty, connecting with the story, back in 2013. This time, my ear became more accustomed to the narrator’s accent as I travelled along deeper into the story. Having the eBook meant that when I got a bit lost within the action via the audio, I could re-read over the section.  There were quite a few characters in the story so I made a list of them and their relationship to each other to anchor me more firmly.

I was keen to read this book because it was highly recommended by Ian Rankin, the author of the Rebus series. I saw Mr Rankin talking about William McIlvanny in an interview on YouTube presented by The Center for Fiction: CFA Master Class 2017. He said that Mr McIlvanny’s writing had had an positive impact on his writing and it demonstrated what was possible in crime fiction, hence my determination to find out what he meant.

The story, although a bit darker than my usual reading choices, was very good and I’m sure many readers of crime novels would enjoy it. There were several humorous one-liners that I thought were brilliant. They reminded me of Raymond Chandler’s one-liners.  Here’s one of Mr McIlvanny’s: “He was one of those men who believe that baldness is a state of mind. He had parted his hair just slightly above his armpits and trained the strands to climb like clematis.” Ch29 P160. I laughed out loud at that one, and more were peppered throughout the story.

Laidlaw (published in 1977) is one of three books in the series. I’ve decided that the stories are a bit too dark for me so I won’t be reading Books 2 and 3, however, I’m so pleased I read the first one. Thank you Mr Rankin for your suggestion.

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