All That’s Dead (Logan McRae 12) by Stuart MacBride

Back in the club…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

Book cover and link to Amazon product pageLogan McRae has just returned to work after a year off on the sick because of serious knife wounds he received in his last case. Still part of the Professional Standards team, McRae is tasked with looking into a claim that a now senior officer was once involved with a Nationalist terrorist cell. But no sooner has he contacted the officer, DI Frank King, than King is called out to a horrific crime scene – the blood-soaked kitchen of Professor Nicholas Wilson, a prominent and obnoxiously combative Unionist. No body, so first King has to discover if Wilson left the kitchen dead or alive. And due to the sensitivity of the allegations made against King, McRae is told to work with him and keep an eye on him. Meantime, social media has gone wild with rumours about what has happened to Wilson and threats of more violence to come…

I loved the first several books in this series and then felt that MacBride had allowed the humorous element that always existed in them to take over from the plotting, leaving them feeling wildly caricatured and completely lacking in credibility. However when I was sent this one for review, I was happy to revisit McRae and the team for the first time in several years to see if the old magic could be revived. And I’m happy to say that I enjoyed it a lot!

MacBride is never an author I’d identify with realism or credibility. He takes an aspect of Scottish life or the criminal world and exaggerates it madly, and I always hope that no one outside Scotland thinks our country or our police force are actually like this. But he does it mainly to make for more exciting plots and for comic effect, so I can usually go along for the ride. In this one it’s all based on the idea of Nationalist terrorism, which doesn’t happen in the real world, and specifically on “Alt Nats” – a term that is only really used as a jibe to annoy those at the fanatical end of the Nationalist cause. Nationalists and Unionists do call each other names and shout at each other on social media, but neither side (as far as I know) have active terrorist cells – if they do, they must be really incompetent ones or you’d think we’d hear about them! So the plot is fundamentally unbelievable, and actually that means it’s more fun than would have been possible if Scottish terrorism was really a thing. MacBride treads quite carefully and cleverly through the Independence quagmire, and I suspect probably manages the almost impossible feat of not offending either side – or perhaps of offending both equally, which works just as well!

It may just be that I’ve been away from him for a while but I felt he’d pulled the recurring characters back a little from the extreme caricaturing that lost me eventually in the earlier books. The appalling DI Steel is still outrageously rude and foul-mouthed but she does at least try to stay within the rules most of the time now. McRae’s team are always good fun. DS Rennie wants to be McRae’s best “sidekick” while DC “Tufty” is torn between becoming a computer geek or appearing in a CGI movie as a space alien. McRae is the sane one amidst all these eccentrics, but only by comparison. However, it’s good to see that in my absence he’s found himself a nice girlfriend and a bit of domestic happiness.

Author photo
Stuart MacBride

Putting credibility of the basic premise to the side, the plotting in this also felt stronger to me than the last couple I’d read. It’s pretty dark and extremely gruesome, but the general atmosphere of humour stops it from ever becoming grim. MacBride’s signature is entertainment and when he’s at his best, he delivers in spades. The writing is great, as always, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy his use of contemporary Scots banter and dialect – again always exaggerated, but very funny, and not at all problematic for non-Scots to enjoy.

All-in-all, not sure it’s his very best but I enjoyed it hugely, and with MacBride that’s what it’s all about! I’m delighted to resume my membership of the Logan McRae fan club, and am happily looking forward to his next outing now.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.

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26 thoughts on “All That’s Dead (Logan McRae 12) by Stuart MacBride

  1. Very glad you enjoyed this so well, FictionFan. Isn’t it great when an author returns to what you think made her or him great in the first place? I love when that happens. And you’ve reminded me that I absolutely must catch up with this series. I am shamefully behind…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was so glad that I enjoyed it – he used to be a real favourite of mine back in his early days! I haven’t decided whether to backtrack and read the few I’ve missed though – maybe better not to risk it… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, yes they do! I actually have quite a visual image of them both too, so they’d have to cast it carefully. 😀 I always prefer him for the entertainment value rather than the plots, so long as he doesn’t get too ridiculous, so this one worked for me – thank goodness! 😂

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    • Ha, I’m glad too! I used to look forward to his books coming out so it was sad when I fell out of love with them and needed to take a break. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay together from now on. (Am I the only one thinking of Ross and Rachel right now…? 😉 )

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    • I don’t know if it’s that he’s taken a step back towards vague credibility or if it just felt fresh again because I’d had a long break from his style, but this one definitely worked much better for me than the last couple I read.

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    • I especially liked his early ones. There was still loads of humour in them but I seem to remember the plots being a bit more realistic. Though it’s years since I read them. He’s definitely worth trying though – he seems to be one of those authors whose style works for some readers and not at all for others…

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  2. I’m so glad I’m a writer, and not someone who has to deal with “knife wounds from my last” manuscript….on second thought, the critique group comments from this past month recommended a bit of cutting, LOL….

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  3. I can see why focusing on something that isn’t really true-to-life would be more entertaining, I think it lets the reader relax a bit. We can enjoy the plot that’s realistic but not too realistic-we are just along for the ride. If things hit too close to home, it just gets uncomfortable…

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    • Yes, exactly! If there really was terrorism in Scotland, then the humour in this book would have felt out of place. But since there’s not (fingers crossed!) he could have fun with the idea of all these silly Nationalist and Unionists bumping each other off… quite cathartic, really! 😉 😀

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    • I loved the early books and am not sure whether he’s really changed or whether it’s my tastes that have, I definitely found this one much more enjoyable than I expected – sometimes a bit of a gap helps make a series feel fresher again. Hope you get a lot of entertainment from them!

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  4. I’m still not convinced I would return to this series now, I think my tastes have changed too much since I last read one of these, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. I guess the trick is not to take it too seriously, as some of the plots did stretch creddability from my memory of them.

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    • I think it depends as much on my mood as the books. This time I was really in the mood for entertainment and that’s what he’s good at. Credible plots and characters not so much. I don’t know that I feel strongly enough to backtrack to the ones I’ve missed though.

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