Review: Slammer by Allan Guthrie

Nick Glass, or Crystal as he’s known to the other screws and cons, is a rookie guard in an Edinburgh prison, having moved there after his wife had an affair. He’s not respected by either the cons or his fellow guards and his family life is hardly idyllic – his wife is a drinker and he’s having to support her and their daughter because she is pretty much unemployable. So far so bad. But when one of the cons decides that Nick is the perfect mule for importing drugs into prison things go from bad to worse. Initially Nick wants nothing to do with it but when the con uses an outsider to threaten his family, Nick has no choice but to comply. But as things get worse and Nick begins to siphon off and use the drugs he’s smuggling his tenuous grasp on reality begins to fracture completely leading to a murderous finale…

Slammer is dark psycho-noir at its finest. As the story progresses, the world begins to fold in on itself. The tale is told entirely from Nick’s point-of-view and initially gives us clues as to when his mind wanders off at a tangent. However, as things progress and the tension ratchets up several notches the barrier between what is real and what’s imagined collapses, leaving the reader struggling for the truth as desperately as the story’s protagonist. Guthrie’s prose is lean and tight and dense, often packing lots of information and clues into as small a space as possible. He drops hints into the story constantly, but due to his skill and suppleness as a writer the reader is often so caught up in the moment that the bigger picture remains a mystery. If you like your crime fiction pitch-black and nasty you’ll do a lot worse than giving this belter a read.

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