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PC Callum McGregor stuffed up the crime scene in his last investigation - so he finds himself shunted off to a "Misfit Mob" in Oldcastle, a bleak (and fictional) city on the east coast of Scotland. Nothing ever happens there; it is a sheltered posting for the war-wounded, incompetent and untouchable police from across Scotland. So imagine their surprise when some grisly remains turn up and they get the job of investigating. A Dark So Deadly is a long book - the guts of 200,000 words as Stuart MacBride manages to drop into the text in a spot of metafiction. This allows space for plot and character to develop; for red herrings to work their way through; for constant deferral of the final act. All this is very satisfying. But on the other hand, it does take an awfully long time to work out what is actually happening. Some 20% of the way in - that's 120 pages in old money - and it still isn't clear exactly where the focus is going to lie; what the crime might be that they are all investigating. As well as the murders, PC McGregor has a backstory that requires exploration. This is sort of intriguing, but it does also interrupt the flow of the story - presumably intentionally so. And it sort of makes sense by the end, but for much of the novel, it feels a bit like two different books, chopped and spliced together in random order like Lanark. Stuart MacBride always writes with mordant wit and clever wordplay. For example, one of the characters is called Watt. This allows a chapter to start with"So, Watt... So what?". There are references to cultural icons both Scottish and of the 1970s and 1980s in which Mr MacBride presumably grew up - e.g. repeated references to The Meaning of Life and Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex... It is all good fun. And like previous Stuart MacBride books, crimes are gruesome and grisly. You can tell he really enjoys creating the crimes far more than he enjoys solving them. Of course, the side effect of this is that the book does depart from plausibility on occasions. Callum`s own back story, in particular, could never really have happened as described. But I guess this is unlikely to trouble a reader who is going to accept the disappearance and mummification of the city's good people. Basically, this is a bit of fun. Well written and pacy - gripping towards the end. Recommended for holiday reading. ****0
I've done this all wrong and jumped in at the 3rd of the series, but having just finished Broken Skin I have to say I am very impressed. There are several crimes being investigated at the same time, (all pretty unpleasant and seedy) and with lots of different storylines and inter-personal relationships going on there's plenty to interest the reader all the way through. Aberdeen doesn't come alive for me in the novel and there's very little in it to make you want to drop by but loved the book. This is a decent review... http://www.eurocrime.co.uk/reviews/Broken_Skin.html There's something immensely satisfying about reading a book that tackles some very tricky subject matter head-on, with enough of the gory details to illustrate rather than titivate and just the right level of gallows humour. BROKEN SKIN is the third book featuring DS Logan McRae and it's as good as the first two. It's February and it's raining again. McRae is on DI Steel's team. There's an awful lot going on. There's a vicious, nasty and cruel rapist - slicing up his victim's faces with a knife, but while PC Jackie Watson is taking that particular investigation very, very personally, in the early morning, the blood-drenched, horribly injured body of a man is dumped outside A&E at the local hospital. There's also a massive upswing in burglaries and a major drug investigation. The dead man is only identified when PC Rickard says that he's recognised a distinctive tattoo in explicit sex films that could be connected to the death. Unfortunately for his sense of gravitas, Rickard also seems to have very direct connections to the local bondage community and, from the victim's injuries, it's very likely so did he. Most of the characters from MacBride's two earlier books, COLD GRANITE and DYING LIGHT are back - all behaving very much to type and all getting in each other's road and up each other's noses in equal measure. The twist in the focus for this book is that both DIs have equal exposure, they are both forefront and not liking each other's presence one little bit. McRae and Watson's personal relationship is ongoing but is, in a beautiful touch, going nowhere happily. All the other members of the investigation team endure just the right amount of success, failure and merciless ribbing. As well as those characters, the taut storytelling in BROKEN SKIN carries you along the manic multiple threads, with a really realistic feeling of a cold, wet, miserable city full of cold, wet and miserable criminals and equally cold, wet and miserable police officers. The humour is again dark, savage and thoroughly engaging - DI Steel has got to be one of the all time great offensive women, and this reader in particular, thinks she's marvellous.
Rescued Thread Adrian 20th March 2006 06:12 AM Stuart MacBride's first novel, Cold Granite, is a well plotted police procedural set in Aberdeen. On his first day back after a year's sick leave, DS Logan McRae is thrown straight back into it, investigating the discovery of the body of a missing young boy, mutilated and abused post mortem. More bodies (both adult and child) pile up, and with the main plot revolving around the disappearance, murder and abuse of young children, it would have been nice to have had a gentler sub-plot to alleviate the awfulness. You might have to ask yourself how squeamish am I? Particularly well developed are the relationship with his boss DI Insch and the events leading up to McRae's stabbing the previous year. MacBride struggles slightly when trying to provide local colour, and his Aberdeen is nowhere near as well described as Rankin's Edinburgh or Dexter's Oxford. His repeated descriptions of Aberdeen's winter weather don't add much, and at the end I knew little more about Aberdeen than I did before. Hopefully this minor shortcoming will improve with his later novels. Thanks to speareig for recommending this book. Royal Rother 21st March 2006 01:45 PM Thanks for that. Definitely one for me by the sound of it. (I hadn't realised that "police procedural" was a genre in itself!) manders 30th March 2006 01:12 AM Coming from Aberdeen myself and being an addict of thrillers I couldn't wait to read this book. I found it to be an enjoyable book that was extremely easy to read. My only complaints being 3 things I picked up on that weren't quite right. One of them being the child who found the body on a school field trip was only 9 or 10 (sorry can't remember the correct age have read a lot of books since) yet supposedly at Kincorth Academy. You don't start Academy until at least age 11. Also Mastrick was mentioned however the description of where it was located was wrong. Lastly he mentioned a bandstand in Seaton Park, I haven't gone back into the park to check it out, but I was brought up right across from there and obviously spent a lot of time in there and can't ever remember seeing a bandstand there. Despite these things, I enjoyed the book and look forward to him writing more. I have to say though his description of the weather in Aberdeen was spot on! Adrian 30th March 2006 09:30 AM Glad you liked it manders, and well spotted on the local discrepancies. Not being an Aberdonian I didn't mind the errors (and certainly they didn't affect the plot). Ah the bracing Aberdeen weather manders 6th April 2006 11:48 PM His new book about Logan McRae is out later this month, saw it advertised in Ottakars today. Adrian 7th April 2006 02:34 AM Thanks for that, manders. I'll keep an eye out for it. Flingo 26th June 2006 10:08 PM I've just finished Cold Granite, and have now requested MacBride's second book - Dying Light. I agree that there was a lot more that MacBride could have done to develop Aberdeen. I felt that a lot of the descriptions were based on stereotypes and not much more. The plot was well constructed and MacBride's writing style was so easy to read and engage with. I missed the huge adrenaline pumping climax, but there is enough to set your heart beating a bit faster! I really appreciated the fact that there was no shying away from issues such as paedophilia, mental illness and the effects that these can have on family members!! I think I can't be as squemish as I suggest as I loved the descriptions of what was in the shed...
Rescued Post from 1st July 2006 I am well over halfway through Stuart MacBride's second offering. While I struggled to put the first one down, I am feeling even more gripped by Dying Light. A colleague warned me that the torture scenes were rather more gruesome and nightmarish than those found in Cold Granite, but I am finding much more humour (particularly of the lough out loud variety) in this as well. MacBride has clearly got into his stride as the writing is much more confident, and Aberdeen is becoming a much more rounded city. If you enjoyed Cold Granite, or merely enjoy a good crime drama, I urge you to pick up this.