Scotland Book Club Reviews

Review: The Dark Remains by Ian Rankin & William McIlvanney


When Gangland lawyer Bobby Carter is found dead in an alley, it was obviously no accident. Carter’s no saint and had his fair share of enemies. His death seems like just another underworld killing, especially when his body is discovered on a rival gangs turf.

But while the answer to who dealt the fatal blow seems obvious, DC Jack Laidlaw sees more in it than local rivalries. New to the team, Laidlaw has a reputation that arrives way before he does. He works alone and doesn’t like to toe the line.

As gang leaders start to butt heads and the city senses tension, Laidlaw needs to solve this case.
I had the joy of coming to the world of Jack Laidlaw for the first time while reading The Dark Remains, and this origin story gives a real insight into the workings of this genre-defining detective.

The story is the brainchild of McIlvanney and Rankin after the former left a handwritten manuscript of Laidlaw’s first case unfinished upon his death. Rankin is the perfect person to refine and complete this work, and we’re all better off for it.

The story flows seamlessly, keeping you guessing throughout and the interaction between characters is especially worth noting, being both flawless and constantly natural. You just want to learn more about all of them, especially Laidlaw.

The complexity of Laidlaw’s character and investigation techniques seems normal in today’s detective novels but was unique when he first appeared in print in 1977. Taking that into account, the depth of character and thought processes make for a fascinating read.
Scottish Noir, told by a master and his mentor.

My one hang-up about The Dark Remains is my lack of knowledge. Being an origin story of sorts, I have very little understanding of the origins shared with me. So as much as I enjoyed the birth of one of Scotland’s greatest detectives, I felt I was missing some of the gifts I was being given.

To solve this, I’ve bought the Laidlaw trilogy to start the journey from the beginning and then return to The Dark Remains to understand that little more. I can’t wait.

*I expect this to go up once I’ve delved deeper into McIlvanney’s world.