Random - Craig Robertson

If you've read the promo blurbs you know the main plot of this book. A serial killer is loose in Glasgow & the frustration felt by the police is matched only by the public's fear as seemingly random victims are chosen for a gruesome demise.

But this is a book of surprises. First, the story is narrated by the killer. The reader is plunked down into his head so we are privy to his thoughts. Slowly we learn how personal tragedy transformed him from a happy family man to one who no longer feels joy or empathy. Grief has given him one goal...someone must pay.

The style of writing is another surprise. The prose is terse & blunt in places, caustic & darkly funny in others. We follow his stream of consciousness as it files through his head & even begin to understand his logic. Scary thought. 

He's smart meticulous & patient as the bodies pile up over a period of a couple of years. The police are completely stumped. One of them, DS Rachel Nary, comes closer than most. Despite the notes on the book jacket, her part is a small one & we don't follow her around as in a typical police procedural. The narrative is always in his voice. But we do watch the killer watching her & although she'll never know it, she plays a pivotal role in his final decision.

He makes one mistake that threatens to derail his plans. One of his victims was a bagman for Glashow's biggest mobster & he's not taking it well. He sees it as a personal insult & joins the cops in the hunt for the "Cutter", unaware they've already met. This results in a gang war that plays out while the killer continues working on his (who)to-do list.

The city itself is as much of a character as any of the cast. Glasgow is described as having two faces. The bright urban bustle & quiet neighbourhoods of law abiding citizens coexist with a gritty & prosperous criminal community (with some blurry areas around the edges).

Because of how it's written, you feel like you're riding shotgun with the killer as an invisible passenger. But the author holds back some crucial tidbits 'til the end which I can honestly say I never saw coming. Suddenly you realize innocent or throw away comments were actually big red flags. It made me sit up & stop reading for a moment to reconsider everything in this new light & admire how cleverly it was done.

This belongs to the Tartan Noir genre that's gaining popularity but not for everyone. It doesn't follow the standard format of a police procedural. It's more of a character study of the killer with the cops playing a very minor almost anonymous role. I really enjoyed this author's style & will definitely check out his next book.