May God Forgive is the fifth book in Alan Parks searing tartan noir Harry McCoy crime novels set in 1970s Glasgow. Picking up not long after The April Dead, this entry sees McCoy once again enmeshed in a turf war between local crime gangs and dragging the depths of a city that feeds on desperation.
When the book opens, McCoy is helping keep the peace at a rowdy demonstration outside a courthouse. Three boys, accused of setting fire to a local hairdressing salon, an attack which killed five women and children, are being arraigned. The restless crowd want to see them hung. The three are seemingly rescued but before long the first of their bodies turns up and it is clear that they have not been saved but rather taken by those who don’t believe in the justice system and want to mete out their own revenge. At the same time, McCoy is investigating two other deaths, one of a pornography pedlar and the other of a teenage girl who appears in some of his material, a case that will end up involving the son of his oldest friend, violent crime boss Stevie Cooper.
As with every book in this series, Parks delivers an amazing sense of time and place. The streets and shops and citizens of 1970s Glasgow are brought vividly to life. But once again it is the dark side of the city that Parks is most interested in – not only the crime gangs but their influence and the corruption that follows. So that while there are some twists towards the end of the book, readers who have been following the series are unlikely to be surprised. The trick is to just think the worst of pretty much every character.
McCoy continues to be the prefect centre of this world. With his troubled past (coming to the surface in this book with the reappearance of his father), ongoing connection to Cooper and his own internal corruption in the form of the stomach ulcer that saw him hospitalised in the last book. But he is also a dogged, intuitive investigator who will not stop until he gets to the truth no matter what it costs him.
Together with Liam McIlvanney, whose latest novel The Heretic was also set in the same time and place, Parks is placing his stamp on 1970s Glasgow. May God Forgive is yet another strong entry in this series which continues to impress.