The April Dead
reviewed by Eric Ellis
The April Dead by Alan Parks is the fourth installment of the police detective Harry McCoy series based in 1970s Glasgow, Scotland.
The novel opens with the blood squeamish Harry McCoy, and his boyish partner Wattie, investigating a torn apart corpse found in an apartment after being blown up by a bomb. Information developed soon reveals even more larger and deadlier bombs may be following.
McCoy, with other things on his mind, such as the imminent release of his childhood-gangster friend Stevie Cooper from jail, hopes the secretive Special Branch organization will take over the suspected terrorism-related bomb blast, but soon finds out, doing so is the last thing the group decides to do, forcing McCoy and his fellow investigators to stop more bloodshed.
At the same time, adding to Harry’s already full plate, Adam Stewart, a retired American sailor, has approached Harry and through endless pestering, is able to persuade Harry into looking into his missing and presumed AWOL son from a nearby American Naval base.
Soon, Harry finds himself being pulled in different directions at once while also learning his own physical health is rebelling due to years of his own neglect and abuse.
Parks also continues to explore the symbiotic relationship between McCoy and the explosive Cooper, which is almost like a violent version of a coin with two sides, both different, but both instrumental for the existence of the whole. Parks continues to develop the dangerous Cooper with more depth and in such a way he avoids turning him into a cliched run-of-the-mill thug.
The April Dead is a sprawling police procedural where previously introduced characters reappear alongside the introduction of new characters, one of them being a villain so vile, showing sometimes mere human mortals can be more dangerous and despicable than any supernatural creation.
Characters created by Parks evolve and develop in believable ways and from time to time continue to surprise the reader when exhibiting new characteristics, especially that of Cooper and Wattie.
Parks is also one of those writers consistently able to produce quality, urban crime novels with grit and few missteps without becoming stale or repetitive. Readers who enjoy the Aidan Waits novels by Joseph Knox, the Sean Duffy novels by Adrian McKinty, and John Rebus novels by Ian Rankin are encouraged to add the Harry McCoy novels to their reading pile.