Laidlaw by William McIlvanney****

23 April 2021 | ,

Reading dates: 1 – 22 April 2022

It is seldom that I have highlighted so many passages in a crime novel. My boss recommended this book and he has very good literary taste. I know very few people with good literary taste who would recommend a crime novel so when that happens I listen carefully. I had not even heard of McIlvanney even though he seems to be a central influence on my favourite crime writer Denise Mina (whom I am hearing speak tonight, on World Book Day). McIlvanney did not disappoint. His style is well crafted and very insightful. The novel happens around the corner from where I live, in 1970s. It has some misogynistic and homophonic undertones at times, although not much more than Freud or Conan Doyle, and that can put off, but the central character of Laidlaw and his wisdom,  make up for it. Here is some of it:


That’s what I love about Glasgow. It’s not a city, it’s a twenty-four-hour cabaret.

 

she had that look of competence in being female that makes men count their hormones.

 

What you feel is your own affair. But what you do with what you feel admits of judgment.

 

To a romantic, the incomprehensible is natural.

 

Using all the skill they had, they had demanded access to a secret. What Harkness was to realise was that the catch-clause in such a demand is that you have to give the secret access to you.


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Laidlaw