Book Review

Book Review – Bitter Water by Gordon Ferris

bitter waterWhat’s it about?

This is the second book in a series that began with “The Hanging Shed”. It continues the story of Douglas Brodie and his investigations as a reporter. This book concentrates on the case of “The Marshals”, a group of vigilantes who are meting out their own version of justice when they the courts have let them down. The term “bitter water” refers to a particular method of exacting punishment on women who were thought to be guilty of a certain crime – not particularly nice.

Where is it set?

It is set in post-war Glasgow for the main part, but there is a sizable chunk of the action that takes place in the countryside around Loch Lomond in the Trossachs.

Who are the main characters?

We see the return of Douglas Brodie and his landlady-cum-ladyfriend Sam Campbell as the central characters, and the supporting cast in this book are Brodie’s reporter colleague Wullie McAllister, who is investigating corruption in the corridors of power, and the Marshal gang of vigilantes who we get to see as the story unfolds.

How well is it written?

Very well written – (believable, if a bit formulaic and predictable) plot, believable and three dimensional central characters, plenty of historical and local detail that lends interest and a not-insubstantial amount of searching on Google for images of bonny Scotland! I loved the ending but I got confused with all the different weapons they were using. I don’t know my Webley from my Dickson when it comes to guns so the meaning about who was shooting what at who was lost on me, but other than that it was a great final scene.

My overall impression?

I thought it was a good book, very reminiscent of a Boys Own Adventure in some places, and apart from the weaponry problem I described above, I was with it every step of the way. It took me longer to read this one than the last one and I’m not sure if that’s because I wasn’t as addicted to it as I was the first, or I was just in a natural lull in my reading appetite at the time. I didn’t fall in love or get engaged with it as much as I did the first book, but I enjoyed it a lot nonetheless. I usually judge my level of engagement with a book by how much it lives in my mind in between reads, and I found I could leave this one alone for a day or so before settling down with it.

Will I read the next in the series?

Yes, but I think it might be my last if Brodie carries on as a reporter. This book ended with an offer from the police force for him to join their ranks again and us readers don’t know his decision until the next one. I think his time as a reporter had only a certain shelf-life and to keep him in that role would be detrimental to the integrity of the series. Brodie works well as a maverick and playing by his own rules so to keep him in an office-based environment seems against the grain for his character for me.

Would I recommend it to my friends?

I would recommend it to those readers who enjoy adventure books, or historical crime thrillers and to those who enjoy reading for reading’s sake.




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