RogerBW's Blog

Cold Granite, Stuart MacBride 04 October 2018

2005 police procedural mystery, tartan noir, first in the Logan McRae series. DS McRae is just back on the force after a major injury sustained in the line of duty; it's winter in Aberdeen, and the mutilated body of a kidnapped boy has just been discovered. And it won't be the last.

But what immediately becomes apparent is that this isn't just the story of tracking down a single serial pædophile: for all the howling mobs are ready to beat the most obvious suspects to death, the methods and evidence differ from one missing child to the next, and so do the motivations.

There are certainly some common elements with A Dark So Deadly, a later non-series novel of MacBride's that I read before this one: overwork, not enough sleep, police procedure sometimes being more of an impediment than the villains' attempts to cover their tracks, a senior officer who's constantly eating sweets. But, perhaps because this is the opening of a series rather than a stand-alone, it feels as though there's more room to move even if the word count is less: we don't have to resolve everyone's story within this one book, and while there's plenty of resolution here there are also things left to be explored in the future – rather like real life.

Meanwhile there are the rain-soaked granite mean streets of Aberdeen (except when it snows), and the feeling of a small town that's ferociously proud of itself even while it's unknowingly parochial.

Rosemount had always been something of a cultural melting pot and that was reflected in Watson's list: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Newcastle...There was even a couple from the Isle of Man. Now that was exotic.

There are occasional flashes of insight, but mostly what our heroes do here is ordinary police work, gathering witness statements, making connections and following where the evidence leads. McRae is human and fallible, but doesn't seem to have the entire world out to get him the way Callum MacGregor did. (Still, there are plenty more books for things to go wrong in.)

There's perhaps a bit much repetition, but this world is full of interesting people (even the nasty ones manage to be a bit interesting), and MacBride can turn a lovely phrase at times.

Standing in the snow was a nervous looking man wearing a heavily-padded leather arm protector. Logan wound down the window and the nervous man said, 'So...this Alsatian...big is it?' His face said he hoped the answer was no.

Logan held up the cast of teeth for the handler from the Dog Section to see. It didn't make the man any happier.

'I see...Big. With lots of teeth,' the handler sighed. 'Great.'

Logan thought about the grey muzzle. 'If it's any consolation: he's quite old.'

'Ahh...' said the handler, looking even more depressed. 'Big, lots of teeth and experienced.'

I'm glad I read A Dark So Deadly first; this is better. Followed by Dying Light.

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  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 05:16pm on 05 October 2018

    I like the Logan McRae books because it is partly serial killer of the week and partly having to deal with spotty teenagers shoplifting packets of sausages.

    And I loved the reveal about DS Steel.

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