In this winner of Scotland's McIlvanney Prize for best Scottish crime book of the year, it is 1969, and a serial killer is terrorizing Glasgow. Investigator McCormack has been brought into the dead-end investigation to identify where it's gone wrong, and he follows a trail of secrets that will change the city—and his life—forever.
Initially, suspense fans might wonder just how many times we can amble down these familiar mean streets without feeling like the pavement is wearing thin. But, almost as soon as they arise, our doubts dissipate. In the hands of an inspired writer like Liam McIlvanney, it’s the very familiarity of the hard-boiled mystery formula—burnished to perfection—that gives The Quaker its sinister sheen of greatness ... Every aspect of The Quaker is superb: the desolate urban atmosphere of Glasgow in the 1960s; the painful solitude of McCormack and the bullying he experiences from the colleagues whose work he’s scrutinizing; and a suspense plot with more wrinkles in it than our worried hero’s brow ... McIlvanney doesn’t so much update the classic hard-boiled formula as he reminds us of its enduring dark beauty.
This is almost a Chandler-esque style of storytelling ... It never seems like striving for effect, however. These [lyrical] flashes across the story cannot, in some ways, come from the characters, but seem perfectly adept of the narrator. The best part of The Quaker is its clever toying with one of the fundamentals of serial crime stories ... McIlvanney does give us connections between the various narratives, but they are occluded in a clever manner. What does blaze through is an anger at how power—whether at the level of the gang boss or the police high heid yin or the council employee —can be utterly toxic, and how it will always target the weak and the vulnerable. It would be sad if this book were not just the debut of McCormack, but his retirement. He is a character who has legs ... Although the novel has it as the moniker of the murderer haunting Glasgow, there is a lot of quaking going on in this book; a pervasive sense of guilt like an East Coast haar. I can’t commend it highly enough.
...[an] engrossing crime thriller ... McIlvanney’s depiction of a terror-gripped Glasgow upended by redevelopment and shattered neighborhoods is as important to the story as the arresting characters he has created. Readers will welcome a new master of tartan noir.