Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Black Dog

Declan dreams of becoming a writer. It’s a dream that helps him escape the realities of his life – going through the motions at college and stacking supermarket shelves part-time, whilst fighting a battle with the ever-darkening thoughts in his head.

He has his pet Labrador for companionship and his best friend-turned-mentor, a pseudo-intellectual who works as a greenskeeper at the local municipal golf course, both of which help keep the worst of his anxieties at bay. But following a drunken row with local gangsters, Declan’s worries threaten to spiral out of control.

James Cavani – Declan’s idol and his hometown’s claim to fame – is a renowned writer, director and actor. But despite his success, his past hasn’t relinquished its hold of him, and through his younger sister’s battle with drug addiction, he finds himself returning to a world he thought he had escaped.

At face value, their lives couldn’t be more different, but perhaps fate has a way of bringing kindred spirits together – and perhaps each holds the other’s redemption in their hands

I’m a huge fan of Kevin Bridges’ comedy, which tends to feature comedic tales. Based on his stand up, I viewed him as a gifted storyteller. So I was beyond excited to read his first work of fiction and I was not disappointed!

The characters in this book were excellent.
Declan was just a wee lamb! Trying to hold it all together but struggling with anxiety and doubt. I loved his character growth. His mum and sister were amazing too. Doof Doof was the friend that everybody needs! He was just such an amazing character and supportive friend. I know he was more of a side character but he was my favourite character and I want only amazing things for him.

Even the ‘baddies’ felt realistic. I’ve read so many books that feature Scottish gang culture and they’ve all handled the topic so well. It would have been so easy to make them caricature gangsters. While these gangsters had some moments of hilarity, it didn’t detract from the very realistic threat of danger. There was a point where I was just chuckling away and then remembered that it probably wasn’t going to end well because ‘baddies’ were likely to do bad things. They did but it did include quite a few laughs.

I’ve never enjoyed a scene involving a running race quite as much as in this book! I genuinely cried with laughter.

I found this book to be heartwarming and hopeful while covering some quite tough topics such as; gang culture, violence depression, and fear. There were enough moments of laughter to lift me out of the sadness, this is something I very much enjoy in a book that covers gritty topics.

The only negative I have from this book was that I’d have loved chapters instead of parts. This is purely due to my inability to put a book down mid-chapter. This resulted in a couple of later nights for me as I needed to finish the part. This is definitely a ‘me problem’ and not an actual issue with the book but I know a lot of others feel the same about chapters. So be prepared and don’t start reading just before bedtime unless you’re happy to pause midway through a part. I do feel that the decision to use parts instead of chapters made sense as the parts each covered a very distinct part of the story.

This was such an enjoyable book. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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