Liam Rudden: Tartan Noir brings old Leith alive
UNLOVED dark corridors, dusty rooms, cobwebs, sparse furnishing. A cracked window, perhaps.The priests' house that stands ahent St Mary's Star of the Sea church in Leith is a mansion of a place.
Back in the day, when the parish boasted more clerics than Sunday masses, it was a hive of activity. Last time I was there, to arrange a funeral, a solitary priest held sway.
Visions of him roaming a single floor of the three-storey building, with just the faint lingering aroma of stale incense and the ghosts of Fathers past for company flitted briefly through my mind.
Consequently Lesley Kelly’s gripping debut novel, A Fine House In Trinity, proved a very personal read. Of course, reading, as we paint pictures in our minds, is by its very nature an intensely personal experience, so much more so when every street, bar and priest house is instantly recognisable - even the Banana Flats feature.
Kelly’s likeable, but troubled anti-hero Joseph Staines is a man you shouldn’t like... but do.
He left town with a stolen tally book, until a brace of suspicious deaths and a surprise inheritance tempted him back to Leith.
No-one is pleased to see him. To survive, he must sober up, solve the murders, and stay one step ahead of a mysterious man who wants him dead.
Set in and around the Capital, Kelly paints a vivid picture of a Leith many like to believe long gone - it’s still there, just look.
Stainsy, as his mates would call him, inhabits a violent world of back street boozers, protection rackets, drugs and prostitution from the protection of the aforementioned priests house.
All this is juxtaposed by the grandeur of the house in Trinity at the heart of the tale, a fine house with a grizzly secret.
Kelly writes with pace and passion, creating well rounded characters. Always flawed, sometimes fatally, she finds good in each, even if it’s for just a fleeting moment.
Tartan Noir has found a new and exciting voice.
Published by Sandstone Press, £8.99