Published: 24/11/2014 12:39 - Updated: 24/11/2014 12:46

Review: Bloody Scotland

Malcolm Archibald's latest book may share its title with Scotland's annual festival of crime fiction, but all his tales are true.
Malcolm Archibald's latest book may share its title with Scotland's annual festival of crime fiction, but all his tales are true.

Bloody Scotland: Crime in 19th Century Scotland

Malcolm Archibald

Black & White Publishing £9.99.

INVERNESS College lecturer Archibald continues his mission to teach us that the good old days were far from free of the threat of crime and violence.

While previous books have focussed on one particular area like the Highlands, Glasgow or Dundee, this volume stakes out its territory as a time period, allowing him free range across the country and one of the most brutal and tragic tales in the book comes from far off, peaceful Shetland where a father’s night of madness brings devastation to his family.

Ignoring the most infamous crimes of the period such as Burke and Hare’s Edinburgh killing spree or the poisoning of Madeline Smith’s lover in Glasgow, Archibald gives himself free range to look at a wider range of crime and criminals from piracy and mutiny in the Hebrides to theft by sleight of hand in posh Edinburgh jewellery shops.

The Highlands were far from immune. As he showed in his previous book on the area, the illegal whisky trade in the Highlands often featured levels of violence that would not have been out of place among the bootleggers of Prohibition era America.

Nor were the peaceful Highlands immune to the rough ways of the "navigators" or navvies who built the railways and canals, as a violent death in Tomatin proves.

There are tales of intrepid career criminals who earn some grudging admiration, moments of madness that have horrific results not too dissimilar from some of the stories we see in today’s headlines, and stories more of their time, such as the final fatal duel fought in Scotland.

Look beyond the sensational tales, however, and Archibald succeeds in giving a feel for the victims and perpetrators and their times in a period when punishment was invariably transportation or death,

A highly entertaining cure for any nostalgia about Victorian values and their consequences.

< Back
Reddit Facebook Digg Del.icio.us Twitter Bebo