Douglas Brodie is a well-educated (courtesy of a scholarship), working-class bloke who’s been a student, a policeman, a soldier and, in the year since WWII ended, has tried to make a career as a reporter. At the start of the novel he is drawn back to his past by a plea from an old friend. Hugh Donovan is convicted of murder and is due to hang in four weeks but claims he is innocent. Brodie and Donovan had fallen out many years before but his childhood friend’s desperation at his plight is enough to prompt Brodie’s return to Glasgow to see if there’s anything he can do.
Even in the crowded space of crime fiction set in the post war period THE HANGING SHED stands out as above average with its strong characters and compelling plot,neither of which always behave as expected. Brodie is a complicated man who has clearly been deeply affected by his wartime experiences but the traumas of his youth are also haunting him. He feels his old friend betrayed him when they were teenagers and so does not immediately warm to the idea of helping him. The depiction of Brodie working his way through the emotions connected to this betrayal was very realistic and one of the highlights of the book for me.
Ferris deals cleverly with the story and doesn’t dwell on the most horrific elements which include the crime that Donovan is convicted of being the murder of a young boy and the disappearance of four others. There are no gruesome descriptions or other sensationalising of this aspect of the story for which I am grateful. Along with Hugh’s lawyer, a young woman called Sam Campbell, Brodie tries to piece together what really happened by re-tracing Hugh’s steps and learning about his post-war life which is shown to be a pretty grim existence due to his extensive injuries. Slowly the pair come to realise that a combination of a ruthless criminal gang and police corruption have played a large role in the case but they struggle to gather enough evidence in time to prevent Hugh’s execution.
For me the last third or so of the novel became a little unrealistic – more a Hollywood thriller type of storyline with lots of in the nick of time escapes and a rapidly mounting body count – but overall I found it very, very readable and will look forward to the next installment of the series. The setting is depicted so evocatively and the central characters are so interesting that I can’t imagine too many readers who would not enjoy THE HANGING SHED.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Corvus 
Length 314 pages
Book Series #1 in the Douglas Brodie series
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