Joe Hope is a tough guy who has built a reputation on his status as an enforcer in the criminal underworld of Edinburgh. The night before he receives devastating news, Joe is out with his pal, Cooper, the two men strong-arming a slacker who owes Cooper money, business as usual for these two.
The next day, Joe learns that his nineteen-year-old daughter, Gemma, has committed suicide at her cousinís writing retreat, where she had gone to get a new perspective on a troubled life. Reacting with the instincts of a brutal and hurt father, Joeís first response is to get raving drunk. Unfortunately, while Joe is indulging his sorrows, his wife, Ruth is beaten to death with a baseball bat.
Since the murder weapon belongs to Joe, he is the natural suspect for the crime. Focusing on Gemmaís suicide rather than the crime for which he has yet to be charged, Joe blindly forges ahead to Orkney and the writerís retreat. It is here that he is arrested for Ruthís untimely demise. Since husband and wife have long coexisted in a form a trench warfare, Joe realizes he could have done the deed but canít remember a thing.
Due to his hard-headed nature, it takes Joe some time to figure out that he has been framed, trussed up by the so-called evidence that marks him as a murderer. His alibi for the night of the murder is shot, the deadly baseball bat belongs to him, and there is no one to support his own description of the facts.
Guthrie is in top form, fashioning a believable tale of tragedy within the criminal element, populated by downtrodden losers, the soulless, directionless men who have little to celebrate save the occasional rousing drunk and whatever random violence attends the moment.
Not one to warm any womanís heart, Joe deals with the world as he knows it, a take-no-prisoners environment of people scrambling for an edge, an assortment of bullies and miscreants. Joe has a heart underneath his harsh exterior, although he is hard-pressed to excavate the debris that has allowed him to hide from his emotions for much of his life. Perhaps that is why Joe Hope is such an appealing character - he is human in spite of his macho swagger.
Amid flying bullets, swinging bats and falling bodies, Joe rises again after a bitter and unexpected betrayal even he didnít see coming. Guthrieís Edinburgh, bristling with con artists and gangsters, is a place where anything that can happen usually does, the powerless ever at the mercy of the predators.