Thursday 4 August 2022




A father torn between his two children. A man torn apart by the choices he has made…

It's 1980's Edinburgh, and Police Constable Ronnie Slater's world is shattered when son Scottie is paralysed after falling from the swing Ronnie built. Now his elder son Darren has fallen off the rails, disillusioned and devastated after Ronnie declared in a heated argument that The Wrong Son fell from the swing. And to top it all off, Ronnie’s marriage is now at the brink of collapse.

Enter North Edinburgh gangster Dougie Donaldson. His offer of dirty cash on the side will help fund the surgery in the States that may enable Scottie to walk again, but at what cost? As things spiral hopelessly out of control, Ronnie finds himself trapped in a deadly web of corruption, violence, and deceit, scrambling to cover his tracks and stay one step ahead as the stakes rise. Now his whole family is in danger, his career in the force on the line.

He just wanted to make things right and give his son the chance to walk again. Now it’s all crumbling before his eyes as he stares into the blackness beneath The Dean Bridge and questions everything. Will he get the money he needs and get out before it’s too late, or will he lose all that he holds dear in the process?

The Wrong Son is a gritty, hard boiled, emotionally weighty crime fiction novel set amid the 80’s heroin pandemic of North Edinburgh. It explores the breakdown of the family structure and the desperate lengths someone will go to for redemption when driven by their own guilt…

Edinburgh, the 80s, cops and criminals and corruption - what's not to like?

Ronnie Slater is a cop. He's streetwise and not averse to pushing the boundaries a little bit too far when dealing with the NEDs (non educated delinquents) he encounters on a daily basis. Show them whose the boss and keep the streets safe as best he can. He's a loving family man, but possibly dotes a bit too much on youngest son, Scottie, while Darren, his eldest is a bit closer to his wife.

Tragedy strikes, Scottie breaks his back in a fall and in a blink of an eye Ronnie's life has gone to hell in a handbasket. He's soon taking bribes from bigshot gangster, Dougie Donaldson. He rationalises that it's the only way he can pay for surgery to give Scottie back his legs. Darren doesn't speak to him now after an angry incident at the hospital after Scottie's accident when Ronnie told Darren he's the one who should be paralysed and in a bed. There's a chasm developing between Ronnie and his wife as well. She's resentful at having to surrender her career to look after Scottie, while Ronnie spends every night in the pub, drowning in self-pity, guilt and alcohol. 

Ronnie's life is in a downward spiral. Drink, a failing marriage, poor choices at work and the fact that he's now Donaldson's puppet doing more and more errands and wrong things to keep on his right side. I think it's called being between a rock and a hard place. There's compromises in the job and the Ronnie's bosses seem to know that someone on the team is helping Donaldson. It's more pressure on Ronnie and an added headache he just doesn't need. There's a lot of guilt, anger and regret here as well as we see the results of one man's choice and the loss of all he holds dear including his self respect.

I enjoyed this one. I loved the setting of 80s Edinburgh against the back drop of the Mexico World Cup. There's a grimness to the environment with a heroin epidemic ruining people, families and the neighbourhood. There's conflict between the police (mainly Ronnie) and the scrotes he encounters. There's a sense of hopelessness about people with crime, poverty, and vandalism rife. There's a few lone souls willing to stand up against the criminal elements in their midst and we encounter one in the course of the book. 

I was invested in seeing whether Ronnie survived the impending carcrash his life was hurtling towards at 100 mph and who of his family and work colleagues also withstood the inevitable collision. 

Story, setting, pace, characters and outcome - all plusses.  

4 from 5

Stephen Scarcliffe's Pure Angst was enjoyed a year or two back.

Read - July, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 232
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle


  1. I do like the setting and context of this one, Col. And you can see how a person might be driven to almost anything under those circumstances. It all makes for what sounds like a suspenseful story. Maybe for some time when I'm ready for grit..

    1. Definitely plenty of grit here, Margot and it's an interesting journey. I hope you enjoy it if you do ever cross paths with it.