Review: Violent Ends

Neil Broadfoot – Violent Ends

Author Neil Broadfoot

Published by Constable, hardback £19.99, also available in ebook and audio book. I received a copy of the novel from the author for review purposes.

You can read my reviews of the previous novels in the Connor Fraser series – No Man’s Land, No Place To Die, The Point Of No Return and No Quarter Given – elsewhere on the blog. I have known Neil for many years, but his books earn their place on the blog on the only criteria that matters: are they any good? I’d be telling him I didn’t think they were…

First, the official blurb: Having the wrong client can be murder… The voice was smooth, cultured, almost tender as it oozed from the phone into Connor Fraser’s ear. “I’ve heard about you, Mr Fraser, and I’m very impressed by your work. So I’ve decided to employ you. I am going to kill Father John Donnelly sometime in the next seven days. And you are going to stop me – or die trying. If you check your account, you’ll see I’ve deposited £70,000. And, just to be fair, I’ll give you an hour, starting now, to find Father Donnelly before the games begin. Refuse my offer, and someone you love will die. Good hunting, to both of us.” The thought it’s a sick joke lasts for as long as it takes Connor to find that £70,000 has been deposited into his PayPal account, and for him to receive an email with a picture of his grandmother. With no choice but to make a deal with the devil, Connor races to unmask a killer before he strikes and uncovers a mystery that stretches back decades, threatening the people closest to him.

Over four books, Connor Fraser has faced bad guys, bad decisions and a lot of bad coffee. I open book five, Violent Ends, expecting to see more of the same, but the joy of reading a series is seeing how the author balances reinvention with familiarity – less reinventing the wheel, more putting on new tyres and changing the hubcaps, perhaps (it turns out there’s a bit less coffee in this one…). 

We begin with fire and pain for an unnamed man, in a chapter that sent chills to my spine, then move swiftly to more pain as Connor and his Belfast cop pal Simon indulge in an MMA sparring session. Connor has plenty of reasons to want to ensure he’s in peak physical, fighting shape – and an email that pings in as they finish up gives him another. No-one threatens his family without consequences. So the person who has sent him £70,000 to protect a priest, targeting Connor’s girlfriend and grandmother for vengeance if he doesn’t take the job, should be looking over their shoulder.

There’s a flurry of action, then we settle into a slow-burn section where the tension is palpable while Connor and Simon assess and investigate both the threat and the priest, Father John Donnelly. Mingled throughout the first half of the book are a fair few names and snippets of back story, but never fear, because as our central pair reluctantly bring in series stalwart DCI Malcolm Ford and his team, the unknown figure’s threat is made good – and Connor is right there in the front line, of course. 

After bringing DS Susie Drummond into the previous Connor book, No Quarter Given, Broadfoot reaches back again to his earliest books to introduce – or reintroduce, if you’ve read those Edinburgh-set novels – journalist Doug McGregor. He gets a cool reception from Stirling’s Donna Blake to begin with, but she swiftly realises Doug’s offer to join forces will pay dividends for both of them. With two journalists poking around, plus DCI Ford on the scene, Connor and Simon haven’t a hope of keeping things quiet – but then again, having some people digging around into official and unofficial sources may pay off. (Fans of Paulie King will not be disappointed by his appearance to give Connor a hand, either.)

Meanwhile, though one attack is thwarted, it seems inevitable the worst must happen. Connor and Simon have a front-row view – and the insight of previous experience in Belfast – when things explode, literally and metaphorically, and get even more dangerous.  

As is often the case in Broadfoot’s books, there is an immediate threat and a deeper conspiracy involving shady men in suits trying to bend the world to their will; finances and influences are both at play. And there’s the classic crime fiction device that the secrets of the past will always, eventually, rise again, however carefully you think you buried them. 

There’s a lot of action and a lot of unfolding plot, and not much time to digest one revelation before the next arrives. But the quiet moments at the end – and the arrival of a battered and bruised Doug at Connor’s door – suggest there’s change coming that might, in a small way, be for the better.

If I’m being picky, I’d have liked more Jen – I’ve always thought there was more to her than we were shown early in the series and the glimpse of her steely core in No Quarter Given has left me wanting to see her play a bigger role. (I hope Connor gets his head straight otherwise even she, apparently ever-patient, will surely get tired and move on!) And I’d have taken a few additional quieter moments to digest the various strands of information – while I love a page-turning novel, having to turn back to check a detail I’d missed as things were so hectic does slow the reading process. But overall it’s another fine read – though with its violent beginnings, middles and ends. Broadfoot’s Stirling-set series isn’t for the squeamish, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Doug says at one point: “That sounds like just my type of story.” If you like pacey action, a bit of brutal violence, a twisty plot with a conspiracy thrown in for good measure, then I’m pretty sure you’ll find Violent Ends is your kind of story.

Neil Broadfoot worked for 15 years as a journalist on local and national titles in Scotland before moving into communications, in both the public and private sectors. He is the author of eight books across two series set in Edinburgh (featuring Doug McGregor and Susie Drummond) and Stirling (focused on Connor Fraser). The first Doug & Susie novel, Falling Fast, was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize. The first Connor Fraser novel, No Man’s Land, was longlisted for the 2019 McIlvanney Award.

You can follow the author on Twitter here: @NlBro
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