Publication Date: December 27, 2013
The Cabinetmaker by Alan Jones, the murder of the son of a cabinetmaker is John McDaid’s first case when he is made a detective with the Glasgow Police. Despite the passing of decades in search of justice, the cabinetmaker and McDaid build an unlikely bond. Is this murder mystery destined to remain unsolved?
On the surface, The Cabinetmaker is a solid police procedural. We get the good, bad and very ugly face of a 1970s Scottish police precinct. At its heart, it’s the story of a bond built between a victim and a man who desperately wants to help him but isn’t sure the police are in the business of the public’s best interest. Jones does a stunning job of portraying a gritty Glaswegian force. Jones gives readers the feel of a real and unfiltered look into the inner workings of a murder case that seems to have little hope of being solved. People are unwilling to talk and respect for the law is low.
In the passing of decades, there are inevitably points where a story might start to drag. Jones maintains a logical pace but a major element of the novel is the building of the bond between McDaid and Francis. Francis is hesitant at first, as any victim might be but recognizes the innocence of McDaid and the value of making him think about what he’s seen. He asks McDaid early on if he’s seen a reason to doubt the veracity of his colleagues knowing that he has. McDaid recognizes the self-interest of the police keeping justice at bay. Booze, women and brutality are the focus. While at times, the narrative can be grating, Jones maintains a logical balance in the somewhat green McDaid.
As one would expect of a novel called The Cabinetmaker, woodworking is a strong theme over which McDaid and Francis bond. Jones clearly has a vast knowledge of the subject with which he invests the reader without overloading them. The pair also has football in common which gives the story a certain filler element and legitimacy to their unlikely May/September friendship.
On the negative side for United States readers, a certain word considered too foul on this side of the pond for many Americans to even contemplate using, appears again and again in regular speech. After several paragraphs, this readers became somewhat inured to the word. The word is framed in a way of daily speech as it likely is in a police department, used again and again in reference to children, suspects, colleagues, best friends, etc. While terrible to read, it is essential to add a certain element to the story. The great stories of our age come with risk and with authors who are willing to take chances and perhaps alienate a few people. Who would remember Harper Lee today without the risks she took in bringing us the story of a great injustice and the people working hard to make it right.
The cumulative effect of The Cabinetmaker is masterful. Alan Jones gives readers an imperfect story but a solid and entertaining read that will appeal to fans of police procedurals.
The Cabinetmaker is written in regional patter and Jones includes a glossary of slang on his website though readers accustomed to Scottish literature and television will pick up the meaning easily.
Check out our review of Blue Wicked by Alan Jones.
Read an excerpt and buy The Cabinetmaker by Alan Jones on