To the Dogs by Louise Welsh

To the Dogs is a literary thriller that tells the story of how Jim Brennan’s comfortable middle-class life starts to come apart at the seams. Returning from a work trip to China, he learns that his wastrel of a son has been arrested on drugs charges. As the son of a now deceased Glasgow hardman, he has overcome his background to make a name for himself in academia, and is in line for the top job at the university. Suddenly all this is in jeopardy as he has to decide whether to save his family or his career. Characters from his past life, with long memories and a score to settle, now emerge from the shadows and try their best to destroy him.

The descriptions of life at the university are convincing as Louise Welsh actually teaches creative writing at Glasgow University so brings an authenticity to the narrative. Many years ago, I was a student there, and this book brought back a lot of memories as I recognised many of the locations.    

The characters are well drawn but few of them are very likeable. There are several strands to the plot, maybe too many, and any one of them could bring him down. The pacing is a bit uneven, but the quality of the writing kept me turning the pages. To the Dogs is a tense and gritty thriller with plenty of twists to keep you guessing who is trying to destroy everything Jim Brennan holds dear.   

I really enjoyed The Cutting Room and The Second Cut by this author, this book not quite so much only because I found it hard to warm to the main character. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but this one is very striking and I like it a lot. I fully intend to read more from her back catalogue, and look forward to reading her next book. Thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.