Robbie Munro thriller #6
Bad Debt is the latest in an immensely enjoyable legal crime series from Scotland. Author William McIntyre is a partner in Scotland’s old law firm; which, you won’t be surprised to hear, specialises in criminal defence. He always comes up with stories that have that authentic feel, the rudiments are drawn from real life – this is fact cleverly woven into fiction. It’s all about the kinds of messy, stupid and fascinating situations people get themselves into when they wind up in front of the Scottish law courts – and murder, of course! The characters are people it’s easy to have empathy with, even the murderers sometimes – however, for the sake of balance in Bad Debt not everyone deserves sympathy, there are a couple of real hard case reprobates too. Bad Debt has a light witty touch, maybe it goes with the territory – you have to laugh or you’d cry – essentially these tales are compassionate but also funny, pointing up the absurdity in human behaviour, the legal system and society. Robbie, struggling lawyer and struggling family man, is a wonderful creation, likable and smart, flawed but essentially a good guy trying to do good things in an off kilter world. Most of the time he’s winging it hoping nobody will notice, this time he’s personally in a lot of trouble.
When Sammy Veitch asks Robbie Munro to take on Eddie Frew last case, the one he was working when he died. It’s hard to say no, after all this is Eddie’s funeral. Robbie’s father says he should steer clear Eddie was corrupt – contemptible, but then as an ex-copper he has no love for defence attorneys. On the other hand, Robbie’s brother, ex-footballer and minor legend, Malki Munro, encourages him to take it. Truth be told it’s good money and Sammy knows how to sell a bill of goods – he says the case is a slam dunk, a solid acquittal.
Simon Keggie, the provost of West Lothian, is running for parliament, the small matter of battering a man with a baseball bat could scupper that. When Robbie goes to see his new client, he seems pretty confident of getting off. Accusing the wounded victim of breaking into his house, or at least illegally entering through the unlocked front door. Robbie goes with the flow, first time in court and the case gets delayed. The original prosecutor withdraws and Robbie finds himself up against his own wife. It’s all a little bit strange but things take a nastier turn when his wife gets threatened in the street – Robbie is angry. He has the licence plate number of the attacker and local drug dealer/player Stan owes him a favour. He asks for the man’s name but Stan delivers the perp, all trussed up. Robbie now realises the scale of his error, he insists that Stan let the man go, he’s been taught a lesson. That’s when it all goes really wrong. A few days later Robbie winds up suspected of murdering the man who attacked his wife.
Bad Debt is deftly plotted and stylishly written and easy to get involved in – original, entertaining and ultimately heart warming stuff. Incidentally, the new cover art for the series is superb.
Review by Paul Burke
Sandstone Press, paperback, ISBN 9781913207304, 22/10/20