Co-written crime novel is a seemless success

The book cover

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Book review

Bay of Martyrs by Tony Black and Matt Neal

I’ll freely admit I read a lot of crime novels, but I don’t remember reading a co-written crime novel any time in the recent past and, if I did, it was clearly instantly forgettable.

So I picked up Arran author Tony Black’s latest novel with some degree of curiosity. Not just because it has a co-writer in Matt Neal, but by the fact the book was written simultaneously on opposite sides of the world. So while Tony wrote his bits at his computer in Whiting Bay, Matt Neal was writing his in the south coast city of Warrnambool in Australia.

But if I expected to see the joins where they two writers overlapped I was to be disappointed. Because the book, Bay of Martyrs, flows seemlessly from start to finish.

Tony is a master of Tartan Noir and his collaboration with a veteran Australian journalist just makes everything feel very real.

His latest anti-hero is a downbeat journalist Clay Maloney. As a long-in-the-tooth journalist I like to pick holes in the portrayal of reporters in books. But if you want a pretty real portrayal of what life is like in a regional daily newspaper be it in Warrnambool or Glasgow you won’t go far wrong with Clay, although he is a dying breed, in more ways than one.

Author Tony Black
Author Tony Black

The story starts with a hungover Clay expecting an easy Sunday at work when the body of a young woman washes up at the Bay of Martyrs. The death is an inconvenience for Clay, who is content filing obituaries and re-writing government press releases on the new multi-million-dollar airport.

But the more he digs into the Bay of Martyrs incident, the more he realises the girl’s death is not a case of misadventure, despite what the police tell him. Clay becomes obsessed with the murder investigation, putting
himself and his colleague Bec, an Irish-born photographer, in danger. Will Clay achieve justice for the young student, or will those in power stop him before he uncovers the truth?

I won’t say any more about the story but the book fairly zips along. Although Tony used to live in Austrialia, you can tell the narrative of the Warrnambool setting comes straight from Matt’s pen. Similarly the tense confrontations are pure Tony, but that in no way detracts from the telling of the story.

Given the west of Scotland setting for a lot of his previous 13 books, I thought Tony may be out of his comfort zone a little in the wide open spaces of Australia, but if this collaboration is anything to go by we are going to hear a lot more of the adventures of Clay Maloney.

*Bay of Martyrs is published by Freight Books priced £9.99 and is available online and in all good bookshops.

Hugh Boag