The Glasgow Smile by Chris Stuart is the second in the series featuring Detective Roberta (Robbie) Gray. Chris gave me a copy of this when I met her at the Theakston Crime Writing Festival in July and when I opened it to start a few months ago I discovered it had an older sibling so I read that first and very much enjoyed For Reasons of Their Own which introduced Robbie, along with her boss and team, as well as newcomer ‘Mac’.The Glasgow Smile
by Chris Stuart
Published by Original Sin Press
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
In a grimy graffiti-covered recess in one of Melbourne tangled inner city laneways, a woman is found murdered. ‘Why would anyone want to kill her? She was so ordinary,’ was the oft-repeated phrase DI Robbie Gray heard when the name of the deceased was revealed.
So why, then, she asked herself, was the body found propped up in such an extraordinary position, almost as if she was intimate with the portrait on the wall. Was this death intended to be symbolic, or was the placement merely a device to deceive?
Set against a background of civil unrest and rising white extremism, a government tainted by corruption and a family desperate to hide secrets, DI Robbie Gray, along with her Indigenous officer Mac must also grapple with their own demons of guilt and failure. When an arrest is made, they realise that not all killers hold a weapon, masks don’t always disguise, and the legacy of long-held secrets can have tragic consequences.
When this book opens Robbie is awaiting the chance to testify in a Commission of Inquiry into ASIO (Australia’s security agency) uncovered in the first novel. She’s been sidelined, working cold cases and training newbie detectives. However, a staff shortage means that she’s tasked with a murder investigation when the body of Annie Dallimore is found… propped up macabrely against an image of the Joker – a nod to the street art for which Melbourne is famous.
Interestingly we met Annie very briefly on the way to dine with her sister. Because Stuart had put us in her head I’d engaged with her… so found myself on her side as her sister puts her on the spot at dinner; assuming that it’s Sophie who’s the trouble-maker. It also meant I felt animosity towards her family and the way they describe her as ‘ordinary’ and an unlikely victim.
I was very much intrigued by the murder. And definitely enjoyed that element of the book. And I liked where Stuart takes us given Annie’s family is quite complex and bring lots of baggage. The ‘whodunnit’ is more complicated than initially thought and she’s able to draw it out in a way that doesn’t drag… ultimately offering something quite satisfying. (Though there was potentially a little twist at the end.)
The book was a little longer than I would have liked as there’s a lot of commentary around the rise in racism, with street protests and violence. I recognise the importance of those discussions and they were certainly relevant to the first book in this series, but here it distracted me from Annie’s murder and I found myself skimming to get back to the investigation.
In the first book we learn that Robbie and her team were investigated because some drugs went missing in one of her cases. They were exonerated, but the mud stuck and it was thrown in Robbie’s face often in the previous outing. Here, she’s given some answers, though the fallout is quite dire.
Stuart ends this on an interesting note. With some stories closed and some changing so I’ll be interested to see what comes next.
The Glasgow Smile by Chris Stuart was published by Original Sin and is currently available.
I received a copy from the author for review purposes.