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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Close to the Bone (Logan McRae 8) by Stuart MacBride

More comedy than crime…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

close to the boneLogan McRae returns for an eighth adventure, this time as Acting DI. As a film about witchcraft is being made in the city, a series of horrific murders with an occult theme is taking place throughout the city. Meantime a young couple have gone missing and a gang war is brewing between the drug barons of the city. And as usual, every crime in Aberdeen seems to be dumped on poor McRae’s desk.

As always, MacBride has come up with an interesting and complicated plot and the quality of his writing remains very high. However as the series has progressed the humour seems to have taken over more and more and while this makes the book an enjoyable read it does tend to reduce any sense of realism and detract from the flow of the story. The usual characters are there – DI Steel, now acting head of CID, Rennie and a brief return for Jackie Watson – but all the characters have become so caricatured that they seem to be more like pantomime characters than real people. This book also sees a reappearance for retired DI Insch, but his personality is so changed, mainly for comedic purposes, that he simply doesn’t ring true at all.

Stuart MacBride (amazon.co.uk)
Stuart MacBride
(amazon.co.uk)

The overall impression for me is that MacBride is bored with these characters and taking them to comedic extremes for his own amusement. And while there’s no doubt it’s still an amusing journey for the reader too, I no longer think of these as crime books but as fairly broad farce comedies. As a result, all the characters are there purely to be laughed at, including McRae, so I found I didn’t feel any emotional involvement with them or tension as to the outcome. I’m not sure where the series is heading and I’ll probably stick with it for another book or two but I think it may be close to the time that it should reach an end before it becomes too farcical.

An enjoyable read, then, but lacking any sense of realism and with none of the grittiness of the early books. Falls somewhere between 3 and 4 stars for me, so for old time’s sake I’ve rounded up to 4.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

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