Series: Jas Anderson: Book One
Author: Jack Dickson
Publisher: ReQueered Tales
Length: 387 Pages
Category: Murder Mystery
At a Glance: The darkness of this narrative permeates every scene, but the payoff in the end is an engrossing tale of murder, revenge, blackmail, and a little payback of his own for Jas Anderson.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: A tough gay thriller set in the criminal underworld of Glasgow, Scotland. Set in the derelict inner-city of Glasgow’s Dennistoun, FreeForm introduces a tough new gay cop, Detective-Sergeant Jas Anderson. A violent anti-hero, suspended from duty for assault, Jas is the natural suspect when his lover is found brutally murdered. Now on the run and struggling to clear his name, Jas uncovers Leigh’s involvement in a blackmail ring, and even his lover’s identity becomes confused.
Film-noir in inspiration, vividly characterised, and authentically exposing the raw nerves of Thatcherite Britain, FreeForm is set to appeal to a wide readership.
Review: DI James Anderson is the walking definition of an antihero. He isn’t the nice guy who just happens to have bad things happen to him. He speaks with his fists. He is barbed, made of sharp angles and jagged edges, and he is introduced while committing an act of revenge that straddles the line between clear police brutality and justifiable retaliation. The story’s opening scene depicts Jas beating a rapist who got away with his crime, leaving readers steeped in a moral gray area which allows for some absolution in Jas’s act of vigilante justice. He doesn’t attempt to hide his actions or throttle his anger; in fact, Jas identifies himself by rank and name to the eyewitness. DI Anderson is the ‘good guy’ who’s done the wrong thing for the right reasons, serving up a piping-hot fistful of his own brand of righteousness, and in that moment, author Jack Dickson set the tone of his 1998 novel FreeForm. Jas is clearly traumatized by his memories of the thirteen-year-old assault victim, Jo Hunter, who has languished in a coma since Jas discovered his body. And hereafter, Dickson proceeds to dole out a bleak, gritty, raw, sexy, and twisted murder mystery for his detective inspector.
Set in a seedy, seamy Glasgow, Dickson guides readers into and through the underbelly of the city, introducing us to a world of drugs as well as routine petty and organized criminal activity. Jas (‘as in freeform?’ is a typical response to the diminutive) gives definition to this novel’s title. He is a gay man who’s firmly in the closet, by necessity rather than by choice, but finding Leigh Nicols gives him moments of clarity during which he weighs his commitment to the job against the price of portraying Leigh, the man he loves, as a mere flatmate. Jas and Leigh’s relationship is fueled by emotion and lust and their mutual gratification in bondage and dominance. Leigh has been good for Jas, but any expectation that there could, or would, be a future for them is laid to waste when Leigh is brutally murdered in their bed.
With Jas’s history of self-righting wrongs through physical violence, on top of the indisputable evidence that he and Leigh were more than sharing a flat but were also sharing a bed, his life turns upside down and inside out. The fellow officers he thought had his back have turned on him for being gay, save for one, and it looks like at least one of them is determined to hang Leigh’s murder on him too. There’s little doubt the evidence is damning, so Jas going on the run was a simple matter of his survival. His working to track down Leigh’s killer and, in the process, clear his own name, finds him low on allies and even lower in hope that the man he thought he knew, the man he’d fallen in love with, was even who he said he was.
The dialogue in FreeForm is written with a phonetically Scottish accent, adding an authentic flavor to the characterizations as well as bringing the city of Glasgow to the fore. The distinct patois made the reading a bit stilted at times as I worked to translate what was being said, most especially in conversations between Jas and a sex worker/junkie/informant named Mhairi McGhee, but that did nothing to dull or hinder my ability to become invested in this engrossing story. There is nothing soft or gentle within the pages of this novel, little to nothing that speaks of hope or happiness, especially as Jas gets closer to the truth of who Leigh was, the sort of Game he was playing, the betrayal of trust that followed in the wake of his death, and the revelations that came to the fore. The darkness of this narrative permeates every scene, but the payoff in the end is an engrossing tale of murder, revenge, blackmail, and a little payback of his own for Jas Anderson.
You can buy FreeForm here:
[zilla_button url=”http://authl.it/B07T2F8B96?d” style=”black” size=”medium” type=”round” target=”_blank”] Amazon/Kindle Unlimited [/zilla_button]