Today is my stop on the blog tour for ‘Cannibal City’ by Jennifer Lee Thomson, organised by Damppebbles Blog Tours. I was delighted to participate in this tour as I love Scottish crime fiction, and I hope that you will check out both the author and the book, as well as the rest of the blogs involved in the tour.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review.’*
A killer is stalking his victims on Glasgow’s streets.
Men are being abducted, kept tied up for weeks and force-fed, then strangled and their livers are being removed.
Detective Inspector Duncan Waddell has enough problems not least of all that his best friend and colleague Stevie who’s meant to be comatose is talking to him and only him. Now he faces his most bizarre case yet.
This time he has help in the shape of FBI profiler Odessa Thorne who arrives as part of a new Police Scotland initiative.
When a career criminal comes forward to say he was targeted by the killer but somehow managed to get away, Waddell hopes it’s the breakthrough they need. But can they trust this witness who’s known to be a habitual liar?
As they close in on their ruthless killer Waddell must look into a heart of darkness to get his killer.
A crime fiction novel set in Glasgow? That had me signing up straight away because I’ve always had a soft spot for Scottish Crime fiction and Cannibal City played on that beautifully, through the use of local Scottish words with no explanation so that they felt incredibly natural and it brought a smile to my lips to read words like dreich in a story which is something I feel I don’t see enough of in fiction. Also, the use of Glasgow as a setting, immediately grounded the story and gave it so much character, because the city has so much personality, which Thomson put to excellent use in Cannibal city and I felt that the book was a good exploration of the darker side of the city without it becoming a caricature, and it felt very modern and realistic which immediately invested me in the narrative.
This is the second in the series (and I have not read the first), but while there are mentions of previous events, Cannibal City works brilliantly as a standalone, although the author’s writing has me wanting to go back and read the first book as soon as I have time. Still, the characterisation was strong enough that I did not feel as though I was missing out in coming to them in this second book, and I enjoyed the differing POVs throughout the book, especially the byplay between DI Waddell and Catriona Hastie. Each character had a different voice and brought something to the narrative, and each had their own complexities, although I did find myself struggling to really connect with Waddell as a character and I found him a little too similar to similar protagonists, although I did find his struggle with guilt and conversations with Stevie interesting. On the other hand, the killer, while incredibly twisted, was a character that evoked a whole range of emotions, including sympathy, which takes skilful writing.
Some of the descriptions were a little gristly, and while I personally enjoy that and, in this case, found it well-balanced, without going too over the top in terms of graphic detail, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, what particularly stood out for me about this book, was that it didn’t shy away from the fact that police investigations take a considerable amount of time, not just to track down the killer but also to discover the motives, and particulars behind the case, which I don’t feel is explored enough in media (or maybe I have seen too many television shows where complex crimes are solved and explained in a single episode). The price of this realism is that there were a few places where the pacing felt slightly off to me, never enough to completely break the flow, and considering the rest of the narrative pulled me along from start to finish this is a minor issue.
Overall, this was an enjoyable, well-grounded but gritty book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys Scottish crime fiction, or who is looking for that realism particularly in regards to the investigation, and a wonderfully, complex killer.
About the Author:
Jennifer is an award-winning crime writer (she won the Scottish Association of Writers Award for crime thriller Vile City, the first book in the Detective in a Coma series) and is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association. She studied creative writing at Strathclyde University. She’s also a feature writer whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The Times and Scotland On Sunday.
She wrote the Detective in a Coma (so called because the detective in the title is in a coma and only the lead character in the series DI Waddell can hear him) and the Die Hard for Girls series of books.
A human and animal rights advocate, she wrote Living Cruelty Free – Live a More Compassionate Life which focuses on how we can be kinder to animals and each other.
In her spare time, she loves going for walks with my rescue greyhound Harley and plotting the perfect murder.
Cannibal City (Detective in a Coma #2) – Jessica Lee Thomson (Published in paperback and digital formats by Caffeine Nights Publishing on 16th April 2020) – **** 4/5 Stars
If you’ve read it or read in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.