Gallowglass (Douglas Brodie 4) by Gordon Ferris

R.I.P. Douglas Brodie…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

gallowglassDouglas Brodie is back working at the newspaper and beginning to recover from the psychological after-effects of his recent involvement in the Nazi war-crime trials. But he still hasn’t learned how to avoid danger. So when Lady Gibson asks him for help, he finds himself unable to turn her down. Her husband, Sir Fraser Gibson, the Chairman of the Scottish Linen Bank, has been kidnapped, and Lady Gibson has decided to pay the ransom without involving the police. So Brodie sets off with a briefcase full of cash to make the rendezvous on her behalf. It doesn’t go according to plan though – Sir Fraser ends up dead and Brodie is charged with his murder. His advocate girlfriend, Sam Campbell is doing everything she can to have him released, but all the evidence is against him, and Brodie can’t stand the thought of months of imprisonment followed by a probable trip to the gallows. As the book begins, we see Sam and Brodie’s mother weeping together beside his grave…it appears Brodie has taken his own life…

As we’ve come to expect from Ferris, this is a great thriller firmly rooted in the post-war Glasgow of the late 1940s. Ferris brings the city of this period to life and his use of dialect is great – it gives a real flavour of the language of the time without being so broad that it would be hard for a non-Scot to understand. This time the story centres round corruption within the banking system just as the Marshall Plan is about to be agreed (which saw the US giving economic support to the European nations to aid their recovery after the devastation of the war). With the government desperate to avoid any scandal that could jeopardise the Plan, Brodie’s old paymasters in MI5 are up against a deadline to find out the truth about Sir Fraser’s death.

Post- war Glasgiw... Photo credit: Bert Hardy/Getty Images
Post-war Glasgow…
Photo credit: Bert Hardy/Getty Images

The plot is complex and, while it’s not quite as explosive and action-packed as the early books in the series, it’s very credible and Ferris keeps it moving at a good pace throughout. The characterisation has always been a strength in the Brodie books and this is no exception. Both Brodie and Sam continue to develop and readjust to life after their wartime experiences. Wullie McAllister, chief crime reporter, is back in action and the force of his personality is in no way diminished by the fact that he’s temporarily confined to a wheelchair. Lady Gibson is a fine femme fatale in a story that may not be completely noir but certainly has its roots there. And wee Airchie Higgins is a gem of a character – a crooked accountant who’s trying to go straight, he reminded me a lot of the incomparable Russell Hunter’s performance of Lonely in the old Callan series – a rather pathetic wee man with a skewed moral code, but you can’t help but feel a sneaking sympathy and liking for him nonetheless. Very well-written, Ferris has again mixed danger and excitement with just the right amount of humour to make this a hugely enjoyable read.

Gordon Ferris
Gordon Ferris

I’m devastated to see that the Douglas Brodie books are now being billed as The Glasgow Quartet, which suggests that this fourth one is to be Brodie’s last outing. But if so, then I’m delighted to say that Ferris has maintained the high standards of this series to the end. In fact, much though I enjoyed the first two, (The Hanging Shed and Bitter Water), I felt that with the third, Pilgrim Soul, Ferris took a huge risk by breaking away from the action thriller format that had brought him so much success to give us a book that was altogether darker and more disturbing, dealing as it did with the subject of Nazi war-crimes and what we would now think of as post-traumatic stress. Now that we have all four books, we can see how Brodie’s character has changed in the few years since the end of the war – at first an all-action man, careless to a degree of his own life and others; then having to face the source of his nightmares and realise the damage that he’d suffered in the war – and finally, in this excellent last instalment, asking himself whether he can find some kind of peace and redemption, and have a future worth living. Although each works as a standalone, I would strongly suggest reading them in order to see the skilful way that Ferris develops Brodie’s character throughout. A great series, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – highly recommended.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

36 thoughts on “Gallowglass (Douglas Brodie 4) by Gordon Ferris

  1. FictionFan – I’m not surprised that you thought so highly of this novel. Like you, I really do think it’ll be a shame not to see more of Douglas Brodie. That said though, I truly respect Ferris for not cranking out contrived plots and ‘cardboard’ characters just to keep the series going. I wonder what Mr. Ferris has in store for us next…

    • I really think this was a great series and sometimes knowing when to stop is a gift. Whatever he does next, I selfishly hope he keeps basing his books in Scotland – too many Scottish authors choose London or one of the big English cities as their fictional base.

  2. I picked this up from the library yesterday and am saving it for the Easter weekend. I’m another who is devastated by the thought of no more Brodie but Ferris has grown into such a superb writer that I will willing go along with whatever he offers next.

    • It’s amazing that he has just sprung fully formed into the writing world at a late-ish stage in life. His website suggests the next one is going to be a modern-day banking thriller…like you, I’ll be eagerly awaiting it…

      Enjoy your Easter read! 🙂

  3. Well I said I’d read the review and see what I thought and you’ve persuaded me that I should give Gordon Ferris a try by starting at the beginning with The Hanging Shed so on the TBR it goes *sigh*

    • Hurray! I wonder what you’ll think of it? The first couple do come over pretty much like action thrillers, though with great characterisation and sense of place, but it’s really with the third one Pilgrim Soul that I think you’ll fall in love with the series. That’s the one where I began to see what Ferris was doing with Brodie’s character. Unfortunately I think they really are better when read in order…

      I really hope you enjoy them! 😀

  4. I suppose having only four, rather than, say 15, may be better. Though if one loves the charater(s), it might leave one wanting. Yet more to read for me?! I hardly have reading time as it is! Have noted the author, also for DH, as he may be interested in this series.

    • It was only when I read the third one that i beagn to see what he was doing with Brodie’s character overall, and that’s reconciled me to just the four, because they tell a full story across the series as well as each having a standalone story, if that makes any sense. I hope you (both) enjoy them, if you get a chance to try them… 😀

  5. Intriguing, but do I have the time? No, I mustn’t let you lead me astray…

    I failed to mention on my recent post about the SF library book sale that I also picked up a book about “plotting and writing suspense” by Patricia Highsmith. I want to make sure my own writing doesn’t put anyone to sleep. 😀

  6. Sorry I’m so late today! It was a gasbaggery of a day.

    Lovely review! I find the subject matter extremely appearing. It must have to do with the dates, I think.

    Now, what does wee pathetic mean? Does that mean he’s a bit pathetic, or small?

  7. I have the first of these on my TBR – you do realise I’ll have to live till I’m 120 to read all these books? 🙂

  8. Finished this the other day, and you are right about this series. Really interesting how the characters have developed and that he has managed to bring Brodie to the point where a marriage, family and an “ordinary” job, albeit as a senior policeman, is credible, unlike a lot of other fictional detectives we have discussed recently.

  9. No — it’s not right that a single post can add FOUR books to my queue! 🙂

    The best part of the winter is how easy it is to justify staying in and reading when the weather is cold and miserable. Even if these books are arguably stand alone, it sounds like there’s more to appreciate if they’re read in order.

    • Haha! Sorry about that! But yes, this really is a series to read in order. The first couple are fairly standard thriller fare, but lifted by the descriptions of post-war Glasgow and some brilliant (but not too difficult) dialect. But the third one is much darker and it was at that point that it became clear that Brodie’s character development was the real story…

      If you do read them, I hope you enjoy! 🙂

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