Reviewed by Helen Lloyd
Gus Dury is an alcoholic on a downward spiral. He had a promising career
as a journalist until he was involved in an unfortunate incident with a
member of the Scottish parliament. With no job and no prospects, and his
wife starting divorce proceedings, life looks much better through the
bottom of glass.
When his mate Colís twenty year old son, Billy, is killed, the official
verdict is suicide. Col knows it was murder and asks Gus to investigate.
Gus soon finds that Billy was working for a Russian gangster called
Zalinskas and had got himself in way over his head.
As he delves deeper into Zalinskas' business dealings, Gus discovers a
people-trafficking operation smuggling in girls from Eastern Europe to
work in brothels, and uncovers police and political corruption at the
highest levels. He is warned off a number of times, in increasingly
violent ways. But Gus is not an easy man to intimidate, and he doggedly
continues on to the shocking conclusion.
PAYING FOR IT is a terrific first novel from yet another Scottish crime
writer. (What do they put in the water there?!) The Edinburgh that author
Tony Black portrays is a very dark place, but it's not just the criminal
underworld that is so dangerous and brutal. Flashbacks to Gus's horrendous
childhood with an extremely violent and abusive father, show that home
isn't always the safe place it should be.
Gus is a hard man with a smart mouth. He has a black humour, and his
speech and thoughts are peppered with slang and classic noir-style
metaphors. His character develops a depth and complexity that isn't
immediately apparent, and despite all his faults, he is a likeable
character. His life may be a complete mess, but underneath he's a decent,
caring person and a loyal friend. He reminds me a lot of Ken Bruen's Jack
I have one minor quibble Ė the constant naming of cigarette brands. It
seemed every time Gus lit up (which was quite often) he smoked a different
brand, and for some reason we had to be told this. However, although
irritating, it didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the book.
With plenty of action, smart dialogue, a pacy plot, and a group of likable
characters, PAYING FOR IT is a splendid debut.
Tony Black is a journalist living in Edinburgh. He was born in Newcastle,
NSW but grew up in Scotland and Ireland. PAYING FOR IT is his first novel,
and with the second, GUTTED, in the wings, hopefully this is just the
beginning of a long series about Gus Dury.
Dec 2008 review originally posted on Murder and Mayhem
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