Evidence Of Death by Peter Ritchie
Billy Nelson is back home in battle-scarred Belfast. But the Troubles have cut this ex-Army Loyalist hard man deep – and now that his city’s allegiances have shifted, nothing is quite the same.
An outbreak of gang violence forces Billy to move on. This time to Edinburgh, where he muscles in on the capital’s drug trade and the family who run it.
As the balance of power tips, underworld rivalries between Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast spill out onto the streets.
With a spate of horrific incidents and a trail of victims, the pressure is mounting for Grace Macallan, new superintendent of the Crime & Counter Terrorism Directorate. Troubled by her own demons and with everyone baying for the blood of Billy Nelson and his old paramilitary contacts, can Grace hold her nerve?
I had previously read and enjoyed the fist in the Grace Macallan series, Cause Of Death. I was really looking forward to seeing where the author took the series next.
I was not disappointed, at all!
The novel opens with Patrick ‘Bobo’ MaCartney attempting to rob a security van. Bobo is an aggressive gangster in his late teens, described by his own mother as a ‘born accident’. His father is an alcoholic and Bobo has been left to his own devices for far too long! A wannabe crime detective, gone rogue, he isn’t bright enough to spot a secret informant amongst his crew.
DI Jimmy McGovern and Superintendent Grace Macallan of the Lothian borders police force, take Bobo down. However, he isn’t the only wannabe gangster in their midst……..
‘For every professional villain we have to sweep up, there’s twenty numpties in-between’
The novel re-caps on characters from the previous novel, including Grace’s ex-lover Jack Fraser. Although the novel is part of a series, the author brings new readers up to speed. Grace works brilliantly as a protagonist. She is strong willed, intelligent and a career copper. I think she is developing perfectly and each novel we will see her go from strength to strength.
Meanwhile, in Belfast Billy Nelson has returned from his tours of duty overseas. With Billy being discharged from the Para’s, Belfast has an angry and reckless man on its streets. But what Billy doesn’t know; is that whilst he was away on tour Ireland has gone through some significant political changes. With the old violent leaders of Belfast’s past now choosing organised crime or political careers. Billy is in for a shock!
Billy is quickly reunited with old friends and local youths Andy Clark, Dougie Fisher and Rob McLean. They spend their time drinking and causing mayhem on Belfast’s street corners. But it is when they venture towards the gay quarter, that their hatred and bottled-up anger is unleashed. After pulling off a series of violent and unprovoked homophobic and racist attacks. Billy and his gang must answer to notorious criminal Jackie Martin and he is not a happy man……..
Jackie Martin is an ex-UVF leader turned pimp and drug kingpin. He is furious with the boy’s violent behaviour, knowing it brings the police closer to his door. He orders the boys to leave Ireland or face what comes. Billy is unshaken by Jackie’s threats and almost seems to gloat, with Jackie impressed with his fearless approach he offers him a way out.
The gang will head to Edinburgh; where they’ll form and front up a Scottish branch of Jackie’s criminal empire. Billy leaves Northern Ireland still full of rage towards homosexuals and Muslims. But also, silently swearing vengeance against Jackie Martin. This novel is packed with gang warfare, criminal mentality and violence.
The streets of Edinburgh won’t know what hit it.
The boys set up their operation in Wester Hailes, an area of Scotland with high levels of immigration and low job prospects. But it is in Scotland, that we become better acquainted with the other members of the gang. The boys spend their days familiarising themselves with the local drug dealers and criminal fraternity.
Just waiting for the right moment to strike out and take over!
‘These men are skilled in terror tactics, police methods and, most importantly, they will use levels of violence that our criminals here are not prepared for. They’ve been moulded by conflict’ – Grace
The criminals and gang members are all expertly described. They each have unique names and personalities, which contributes to their level in the criminal hierarchy. Weakness is exploited and used against them. Junkies are seen as worthless souls. Overall life is cheap, where criminal endeavours flourish.
The novel is written in almost two parts. On one hand we have the story of Billy and his bunch of violent thugs. On the other hand, we have the story of the police officers, faced with taking them down. The novel builds and builds, as the criminals try to out-do each other using various violent tactics. Whilst the police must gather intelligence and surveillance, to move too quickly would create a disproportionate response and the media would relish an opportunity to apply further pressure.
The back cover of the novel states that the author is a former senior police officer. It really shows in the clever and detailed writing. I can’t wait to see where he takes the series next in, Shores OF Death.
I can’t wait to be back with Grace Macallan later in the year. 5*
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