Everyone Knows Football Is A Matter Of Life And Death. But This Time, It’s Murder

“Scott Manson is team coach for London City football club.

He’s also their all-round fixer – he gets the lads into training and out of trouble, keeps the WAGs at bay and the press in his pocket. The players love him, the bosses trust him.

But now the manager of London City is dead, killed at his team’s beloved stadium at Silvertown Docks. Even Scott Manson can’t smooth over murder… but can he catch the killer before he strikes again?

Set in the glamorous, corrupt world of Premier League football, this is the first in a gripping new series from a bestselling crime writer.”

61A2XCU5SdL“January Window” is a novel by Edinburgh born novelist Philip Kerr, author of a series of books featuring Berlin detective Bernie Gunther.

The synopsis (see above) for this was enough for me to bring the book home from the library and check it out. As something of a football fan (though not obsessively so!) I thought the premise of being set in the world of the “beautiful game” would make this a different and interesting spin on the murder mystery genre.

The story is told from the perspective of Scott Manson, a Scottish former professional footballer. Manson is assistant to manager Joao Zarco at London City, a relatively recently formed football club who are owned by a shady Ukrainian oligarch, Viktor Sokolnikov.

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Philip Kerr

There are lots of references to real life footballers and specific incidents, which I imagine would be something of a hurdle unless the reader is also a fan of the game.

When Zarco turns up dead, apparently murdered, at the club’s stadium on match day, Sokolnikov asks Manson to take over as manager and also to investigate Zarco’s death.

Manson has his own reasons for not wanting the help the police. When he was playing for Arsenal, he was put away for a rape he did not commit, and subsequently has a strong dislike for the police.

There are plenty of issues for Manson to wade through – the possibly dodgy club owner, corrupt agents, under-performing players, the suicide of a close friend, the breakup of his relationship, random drug testing, lots of police, etc., It’s probably just as well , then, that as well as being an ex-con and so having plenty of knowledge of that world, he is also knowledgeable about art, expensive clothes, has a degree and can speak several languages.

That said, how he manages to fit crime solving into his already hectic schedule as a Premier League football manager is something of a mystery in itself, and I did feel that the ending was something of a let down, to be honest.

Philip Kerr
Philip Kerr

The cover of this book declares it to be a “Scott Manson Thriller”, and indeed there are two further novels featuring Manson scheduled for publishing this year – “Hand Of God” in June, with “False Nine” following in November. Given the large amount of real life football information presented in this book, I felt that this one was almost a decent short story that had been padded out to book length, so I’m not sure where Manson goes from here…

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