Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Random - Craig Robertson

Craig Robertson, formerly of Scotland's Sunday Post cleverly puts the press at the heart of this, his first novel.  Just how cleverly, we don't realise until the very end.

Plotting is exceptional here.  It's a serial killer first-person narrative, never easy to do, and we are never told our protagonist's name (we get his surname, indirectly, again towards the end).  By incorporating the press reports, which the killer studies assiduously, we gain the indispensable counter-view.  Motivation is also a problem - most serial killers kill for kicks of one sort or another and Robertson has, after all, called his novel Random.  Again, superior plotting saves the day.  It's not the purpose of this blog to give the game away but, suffice to say, when we realise what our killer's motivation is, we start to empathise.

The writing itself is brisk, propulsive, and spiced with Glasgow dialect.  The book is consciously Tartan Noir - our killer is not the worst or most violent character involved - with the extra twist of some truly innovative means of murder.

My only criticism is that it goes on maybe thirty pages too long.  Some wrapping up of loose ends is essential but not the final denouement, which trips over the obstacle intrinsic in first-person narrative and which, in this instance, really isn't worth the risk.  In detective novels it is customary to restore the world to balance.  This, however, is a psycho killer novel and the world of our protagonist can never return to balance.

All the same, a brilliant debut - exceptional - and a writer to watch.

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