Book review: Terms of Restitution, by Denzil Meyrick

This Glasgow and Paisley-set gangland thriller would make a great TV series, writes Joyce McMillan, but don’t expect it to stray too far from the usual stereotypes

Denzil Meyrick PIC: Kirsty Anderson

Denzil Meyrick’s latest gangland thriller is one of those books that would make a great television series, particularly for those who enjoy the odd sensational and improbable plot twist. Set in contemporary Paisley and Glasgow, Terms Of Restitution tells the tale of a ferocious episode of gang warfare which follows the return from London of Paisley mob boss Zander Finn, after a two-year absence during which he has been lying low, and trying to recover from the savage murder of his son Danny, gunned down in a Paisley pub.

There are four warring organised crime groups in play, as Meyrick’s story unfolds. There’s Zander’s Paisley mob, which has been badly run in his absence by his wife Senga. There’s the Glasgow mob with whose leader Senga has been having an affair. Then there are “the Albanians”, East European gangsters who have been muscling in all over Glasgow; and finally another mysterious set of players, whose full influence is only revealed in the last half dozen of almost 400 pages

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Readers looking for one of those crime novels that transcends genre to mount a serious commentary on the times, though, will not find it in Terms Of Restitution, which instead recycles the familiar tropes of violent gangland fiction at great and sometimes ponderous length. One or two of Meyrick’s characters are memorable, particularly Finn’s unstoppable old mother Maggie, perched in her 17th floor Paisley tower-block flat. The others, though – even Finn himself, who occasionally appears to us in the first person, as if revealing himself as the true author of the tale – are about as sharply drawn as a bunch of children’s play figures, from the parade of treacherous Paisley gangland mates who come to a grim end, to the woman chief inspector of police who nurses a tenderness for our hero, as someone apparently a cut above the average gangland killer.

Terms of Restitution, by Denzil Meyrick

As for poor old Paisley and Glasgow – well, rarely can a writer have so ruthlessly played up to the grimmest stereotypes of those two towns, in constructing a fictional world. In Meyrick’s west central Scotland, it always rains, and the sky is always grey; everyone is either a violent thug or a pathetic victim, and Glasgow is a town full of filthy pubs populated by toothless old freaks who cheerfully piss on the floor. Meyrick’s west of Scotland, in other words, is a familiar caricature, and not much more. For those who like their Glasgow grim, violent and blood-soaked, though – and who get their kicks from the idea of a whole world founded on such kill-or-be-killed brutalism – Terms Of Restitution is just the book to provide some comfort, in uncertain times; and to reassure them that at least in the world of gangland fiction, nothing much has changed at all.

Terms of Restitution, by Denzil Meyrick, Polygon £12.99

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription at https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions