Tag Archives: Logan McRae

‘Broken Skin,’ by Stuart MacBride

Broken Skin

More and more often, it seems to me, a book series I’m enjoying “jumps the shark,” from my point of view. The reasons vary, but usually they’re political or religious.

I’m dropping the Logan McRae series of dark comic police mysteries for a slightly different reason.

In Broken Skin, we rejoin Detective Sergeant Logan McRae of Aberdeen, Scotland, as he continues to operate (after a fashion) in a chaotically dysfunctional police department, investigating deadly serious crimes. This time a famous football (soccer) player is suspected of a string of sadistic rapes, but the police can’t break his alibi. And a BDSM porn star is discovered murdered in a rather… unconventional way.

I was all in with the story until the very climax, which (to me) was kind of… icky.

Then I moved on to the next book, Flesh House, which involves (I’m not making this up) a serial cannibal. And once I figured out where the story was going…

I metaphorically got up out of my seat and left the theater. None of that for me, sir, thank you very much.

Author Stuart MacBride has made the decision – and it may very well be a wise one in business terms – to go full shockmeister in this otherwise enjoyable series. He seems to be quite successful, so he probably hasn’t misjudged his audience.

But it’s not to my taste.

‘Dying Light,’ by Stuart MacBride

Dying Light

The Regents Arms was a little bar on Regent Quay with a three am licence. Not the smartest place in Aberdeen; it was dark, dirty, missing an apostrophe, and smelled of spilt beer and old cigarettes.

Imagine that the Keystone Kops were real policemen in the real world, running around in feckless circles while real criminals carried out their genuine atrocities in technicolor splendor. That’s sort of the impression I get from Stuart MacBride’s series of police procedurals starring Detective Sergeant Logan McRae of Aberdeen, Scotland. No stalwart, heroic cops here – just confused and overworked plods keeping after the criminals until the criminals make a mistake.

I suspect the realism level is pretty high in these darkly comic books. One authentic element is that the detectives don’t have the luxury of concentration. They work several cases at once. In Dying Light, a serial killer is abducting and murdering prostitutes, someone is screwing doors shut and torching homes with families inside, and a young husband has been reported missing.

In the previous book, Cold Granite, which I reviewed a couple weeks ago, DS McRae worked under Inspector Insch, a clownish-looking fat man, but intelligent and concerned about his team. In Dying Light, he’s assigned to Inspector Steel, a raddled lesbian who’s sloppy, lazy, glory-grabbing, and oblivious to her subordinates. McRae’s frustration level spikes as his sleep deficit widens, but he plugs on in his obsessive way, until all the questions get answered in the wake of a pretty explosive climax.

I could easily dislike the Logan McRae books, which are fairly cynical in many ways. But I enjoy the high quality prose and the slapstick, and the fact that the good guys generally muddle through in the end. Hard to believe Sgt. McRae doesn’t find another line of work, though. Cautions must be given for language, adult situations, and disturbing violence.

‘Cold Granite,’ by Stuart MacBride

Cold Granite

Behind the approaching van the North Sea raged, grey and huge, the frigid wind making its first landfall since the Norwegian fjords.

I like to tell you right off when I think a book is well done. Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride, is an extremely well done mystery/thriller, a book that handles a troubling subject about as well as any writer could.

Detective Sergeant Logan McRae has been nicknamed “Lazarus” by his fellow officers. It’s his first day back on the job, after a long convalescence from knife wounds received from a serial killer. He’s hoping to take it easy for the first few weeks, as he still feels some pain.

No hope of that. The first day a three-year-old boy is found murdered and mutilated in a flooded ditch. Soon other children go missing – or are discovered dead. Long hours will be required, in the extremely unpleasant weather of Aberdeen, Scotland in December (the rotten weather is a major character in t this book). Logan will have to deal with sniping associates, demanding (or lazy) superiors, maddening defense attorneys, and persistent news reporters (one of whom attaches himself to Logan as his special project). Apparent connections between murders prove illusory, while apparently separate murders turn out to be linked. It’s one step forward, two steps back all the way to a pretty cinematic climax.

The writing is top-notch, vivid and epigrammatic. The characters of Logan, his fellow officers, and a variety of scaly suspects are well drawn. What particularly impressed me about the story is the way author MacBride conveys the frustrations of the work of policing – I began to wonder why anyone puts up with it. There is no attempt to soften the horrific suffering and deep grief involved in the crimes, but he makes it endurable through a kind of slapstick – Logan’s many frustrations, disappointments, and injuries are not laughable, but they’re presented in a way that lightens the mood and keeps the whole effort from being too much for the reader to bear.

I very much enjoyed Cold Granite, and look forward to reading further Logan McRae mysteries. Many cautions are in order – language, sexual themes, and very disturbing crimes against children.