#BloodyScotland: McIlvanney Award Reader: Pint Sized Reviews: Games People Play from Owen Mullen

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The McIlvanney Prize is Bloody Scotland’s annual prize awarded to the best Scottish Crime book of the year. It provides Scottish crime writing with recognition and aims to raise the profile and prestige of the genre as a whole. Scottish roots are a must for competition applications: authors must either be born in Scotland, live there or set their books there. Crime fiction, non-fiction and anthologies of short crime stories are all eligible. The prize was renamed in memory of William McIlvanney, often described as the Godfather of Tartan Noir, in 2016.

For the second year in a row, I was honoured to be a reader for the prestigious McIlvanney Prize for #BloodyScotland.

This involves readers being sent 5 random books to read and score out of 10. The scores are all sent back to the team at Bloody Scotland and the long list is created from the top scorers. It is all done in secret and while some readers know other readers involved we agree not to discuss any of the books that we have read with each other, or with anyone else.

In the run up to #BloodyScotland I’ll be giving #pintsized reviews of the books I was allocated to read for this year’s long list.

Third, on my list this year was Owen Mullen’s “Games People Play”


What the blurb says:

An utterly gripping crime thriller from ‘a major new force in British crime fiction.’
Thirteen-month-old Lily Hamilton is abducted from Ayr beach in Scotland while her parents are just yards away.

Three days later the distraught father turns up at private investigator Charlie Cameron’s office. Mark Hamilton believes he knows who has stolen his daughter. And why.

Against his better judgment, Charlie gets involved in the case and when more bodies are discovered the awful truth dawns: there is a serial killer whose work has gone undetected for decades.

Is baby Lily the latest victim of a madman?

For Charlie it’s too late, he can’t let go.

His demons won’t let him.

Games People Play is a stunning new crime thriller which will have you on the edge of your seat. It will appeal to fans of authors like; Lee Child, Peter May, Angela Marsons & Helen H Durrant

My pint-sized review:

I loved Charlie Cameron, Owen has created a strong and complex character in this Private Investigator; he has his own demons to chase yet it doesn’t prevent him from taking on cases where the similarities are bound to stir up those demons; his relationships with the other characters are complex yet intriguing.  I found all the characters to be well-rounded and realistic. I loved the fact that it is set in places I know – from the area around the Exhibition Centre to the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow, this novel will introduce you to my favourite city in the world.  A sense of place is important to me in a book, I want to be able to see where I am, hear the sounds around me, inhale the essence of the location and this novel picked me up and placed me smack bang in the middle of my home town.

About Owen:

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School was a waste of time for me. Or rather, I wasted time; my own and every teacher’s who tried to get me to work. It took twenty years to appreciate what they were telling me. Life has rules. They aren’t written down but they exist nevertheless. I got that. Eventually. But by then I was thirty-five.
Along the way, I missed an important clue. At ten I won a national primary school’s short story competition – and didn’t write anything else for forty years.
As a teenager my big obsession was music. Early on I realised if I was successful I would probably be rich and famous and pull lots of girls.
So how did that turn out?
Well, you haven’t heard of me, have you? And this morning I caught myself worrying about the electricity bill. So the short answer is: one out of three ain’t bad.
Running around the country in a Transit van with your mates is fun. It’s your very own gang. You against the world. Until you fall out and the dream lies bleeding on the dressing-room floor.
When that happened I went to London
[everybody from Scotland goes to London, it’s like first footing at New Year, or ten pints of lager and a vindaloo on a Friday night; a sacred tradition]
and became a session singer. I also started gigging with different bands on the circuit.
Back in Scotland – most of us come back with wild tales of great success, none of them true – I wondered what I should do with myself and didn’t have to wait long for the answer. Her name was Christine. We got married, I went to Strathclyde Uni and got a bunch of letters after my name, and toughing it out at Shotts Miner’s Welfare, or dodging flying beer cans at the Café Club in Baillieston, was in the past. The long hair was short now, I wore a suit and pretended to like people I didn’t like because we were ‘colleagues’.
After many adventures, I started my own marketing and design business and did alright. Christine and I were very happy, we travelled all over the place; India, Brazil, Botswana, Nepal, Borneo, Japan. One day I suggested we move. To the Greek islands. So we did. We bought land and built a beautiful villa overlooking the Mediterranean. Then the pan global financial crash happened, years of fiscal carelessness finally caught up with Greece; the exchange rate dived and the cost of living in Paradise went through the roof.
I had to do something. Then I remembered the short story competition. I had been good at writing, hadn’t I?
I wrote another short story called The King Is Dead…the first thing I’d written since primary school. When I typed the last word [Christine taught me to type] I held the pages in my hand then started to read. An hour and a half, rooted to the chair unable to believe what was in front of my eyes. For four decades I had shunned a God given gift. And as I read I started to understand why. It was awful. Not just bad. Bloody terrible.
But I kept going.
And now, eight years and seven books later, three literary agents plus two I turned down [they were reading a different book] I am a writer. My books are on Amazon. People buy them and come back for more.
One seasoned London agent has predicted I am destined to be ‘a major new force in British crime fiction.’
So is the moral: follow my example, find something you’re good at and stick with it. Hardly. I didn’t, did I? Do it your own way; it’s your life.

You can buy the book via the link below:

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