‘The Blood Road, by Stuart MacBride

The Blood Road

Hardie rubbed at his face. ‘We’ve got two missing girls; an ex-police-officer who was stabbed to death; an exhumed murder victim no one can identify, a serving police officer who’s been hanged, and now you say the body you dug up in the middle of nowhere wasn’t just murdered, it was tortured first!’ He pressed his palms into his eye sockets and made a muffled screaming noise.

It is my plan not to read any more of Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae novels. I bought this one by accident, as I explained a few reviews ago. But it’s not because they’re bad novels. They’re well-written and exciting, with moments of excellent, witty prose. I just don’t like the world they take me into.

In The Blood Road, our hero, Detective Inspector Logan McRae, has made a move to the Professional Standards police squad in his part of Scotland. His former boss is now his subordinate. Other cops don’t like him much because of his job, but short-handedness means he gets pulled into a murder investigation anyway.

A body is found stabbed to death in a car along a lonely road. When it’s identified, it’s a shock – it’s a former police colleague, who was supposed to be dead years before. Meanwhile there’s been a string of child abductions, and rumors are spreading of a secretive “livestock market” where these children will be auctioned off to pedophiles. Evidence mounts that somehow – it’s almost impossible to believe – this twice-dead policeman was involved with that ring.

The Blood Road is very well crafted. The tension rises relentlessly, especially on one manic night, and the pathos at some points is almost unendurable, at least for this tender-hearted mystery lover. The ending was both shocking and tragic.

I think I figured out what annoys me about this series. It’s that it’s very up to date in its treatment of sexual roles. The male characters and the female characters are pretty much interchangeable (which is to say, they’re all crude and juvenile). So when two characters have sex (always offstage, it should be noted), it’s just sort of two “neutral” persons, exchanging body fluids. “Gay” sex is the same as straight sex, because males and females are the same.

I should note, however, one thing that struck me in reading this novel, which I hadn’t noticed before. There’s little or no actual obscenity in the dialogue. I realized that most times (I don’t know if it’s every time) that a character seems to be using foul language, it’s just an impression created (very neatly) by author MacBride. The characters (especially the egregious Detective Sergeant Steel, an unkempt lesbian) talk such outrageous trash that it seems as if they’re using foul language when they’re not. I may have missed a four-letter word or two, but once I started watching for them, I didn’t find any.

You may enjoy these very well-composed police black comedies.

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