Book Review: Alex Gray – Glasgow Kiss

Jessica Jennings 9 June 2009

Glasgow Kiss revolves around two mysteries that have occurred in as many weeks in DCI Lorimer’s district. First, a toddler is abducted in front of her house whilst her mother’s back was turned, and then Muirpark Secondary School pupil Julie Donaldson disappears, having recently accused teacher Eric Chalmers, a religious family man, of rape. Kyle Kerrigan, Julie’s ex-boyfriend, whose abusive alcoholic father has just been released from prison, is unexpectedly involved in the investigation, while Lorimer’s wife Maggie, another teacher at Muirpark, privately campaigns for Chalmers’ innocence. The web of Lorimer’s missing person’s cases mirrors the tangled relationships between the characters, conveying well the larger scale effects of these crimes and the damages caused by jumping to conclusions too quickly.

Gray has been praised for bringing Glasgow to life in her novels, and Glasgow Kiss does indeed explore a wide range of characters in a native Glaswegian dialect that is both entertaining and evocative. However the novel’s minor characters err towards being caricatures, and their dialect a gimmicky refrain. Gray has a tendency to stitch herself up with stereotypes that need a great deal of development to become anything more than stock characters. Gray does nevertheless provide development for the most central characters through subtle narrative shifts that are sufficient for them to become convincing and involving. Gray, like many crime fiction writers, also uses these narrative shifts to create suspense, as well as breaking up the intricate storyline into more digestible pieces.

Gray’s ‘show-not-tell’ writing technique does encourage interest from the reader, and is arguably the best way to write crime fiction. But, at certain points in Glasgow Kiss, the presentation of artefacts within the mysteries becomes dangerously close to unintentional parody.

Glasgow Kiss is one of many cinematic crime novels. Although it is an entertaining read with a complex plot presented in different narrative focuses and full of the suspense you would expect from a crime novel, it is unchallenging. Whilst it entertains, it does nothing new, and so remains mediocre.

Jessica Jennings