Reviews, Scottish Reads

Sound of Sirens

In a dead-beat coastal town in North East Scotland, seventeen-year-old Malky Campbell is desperate to help his pregnant and heroin addicted girlfriend.

DI Stark, a middle-aged detective, alarmed by the rise of teenage crime in Port Cawdor, uncovers the operations of a county line gang that are flooding the area with drugs and engaging in a vicious turf war with a local family.

Malky has just started working on his family’s trawler with his cousin Johnny, when their boat pulls up Johnny’s brother in its nets. The rest of the crew, the tightly-knit community and the police start to suspect that the cousins are responsible for his death.

With his brother dead, Johnny inherits the family trawler, which he plans to use to smuggle drugs into the country for the county line gang, giving him enough money to start a new life.

What’s that? I’m back again chatting about reading some enjoyable Scottish fiction. You know it! I was lucky enough to receive a wee copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, seeing as I had this book in my Waterstones wish list, I couldn’t resist!

There were two main reasons that I wanted to read this book: 1. it was set in a wee fishing village in the North East of Scotland and I live in the North East of Scotland. I was excited to read something set nearish to Aberdeen. 2. This book was long listed for the McIlvanney award (this is almost a guarantee to me of a good time).

I enjoyed this immensely! I would, however, like to point out that Aberdeen has been plagued by some pretty heavy haar since I started reading this book…coincidence? This very much enhanced the ominous vibes of the book.

The majority of this book took place during the summer break. Malky had finished high school and was trying to just work out what he was going to do. He seemed torn between his family expectations and jealousy of his peers who were heading to uni. He was lost and not sure where to go or what to do.

I really felt sorry for Malky who was just a wee guy that had been drawn into a whole bunch of trouble with no way out. He looked up to his cousins who were involved in some illegal antics and his mum just wanted the best for him. A future different to theirs.

I really liked the inspector who was struggling to find the right balance between being an inspector and being a father. He felt a bit mischievous in the way that he went sleuthing, he seemed like a nice guy. I really enjoyed the way that the lives of the characters were interwoven.

This book switched narratives between Malky (and the boat and illegal antics) and DI Stark (the person trying to stop the illegal antics). I really enjoy a multi POV tale. The writing style really brought home the sort of hopelessness of the characters who lived in a place that had basically lost their industry.

I loved that the reveal of what had happened came so early. Here I was, with my suspicions, then around 50% I got the reveal. At that point, it all went wild! The pacing that had been nice and gentle suddenly amped up and I was hooked!

I did have to get my map out for some of the travelling parts because I lost my bearings. I enjoyed witnessing bad decision after bad decision being made. The non-police characters just felt tragic with no choices left to them but the wrong choices.

This was not an uplifting or joyful read by any means but I knew that before going in and I did appreciate the ambiguous ending. I’m very grateful for my copy of the book and am excited to add it to my Scottish fiction bookcase! The haar can go away now, I’ve finished the book and no longer need the creepy on theme weather.

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