I’m barging into Barney Thomson’s story eight books in, but I still felt immediately at home with Aye, Barney.
Barney is a barber in Millport on the Scottish island of Cumbrae. I get the impression that Barney has found himself in proximity to violent crime a number of times in the past but now he is hoping for a tranquil life with his companions at the barbershop, Keanu and Igor, and his police officer partner, Monk.
However, a predatory businessman by the name of Crane, with a hyperbolic turn of phrase and a confected combover, is trying to take over the island. He wants to build a resort, complete with golf course. He’s even talking about independence – not of Scotland but of Cumbrae itself.
Then the (brutal but highly imaginative) killings start. Are Crane and his people to blame? Monk finally has a case worthy of her talents to investigate.
Barney’s is a strange and wonderful world. It is both comic and macabre. It fizzes with cultural references while affectionately parodying small-town life. The conversation between Barney, Keanu and Igor ranges from the philosophical to the absurd – and look out for the characters’ names!
Beneath it all there is a gentle melancholy as the peace which Barney seeks eludes him, even in this remote and beautiful place.
Enjoyed this? If you like darkly comic crime fiction, take a look at my review of The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey