RogerBW's Blog

Blind Eye, Stuart MacBride 26 December 2019

2009 police procedural mystery, tartan noir, fifth in the Logan McRae series. Someone is attacking Polish immigrants in Aberdeen, cutting out their eyes and burning the sockets – but taking care to leave them alive – then sending ranting racist letters to the police…

I enjoyed much of the moment-to-moment stuff in this book: the individual incidents and how things can go wrong with seemingly routine jobs, the way one has to decide whether to go into a situation light (and fast) or heavy (and slow) and how either of them can turn out to be comprehensively the wrong decision, and so on. McRae is constantly blamed for everything by his superiors, in what feels more like a hierarchy of bullies than a working police force. This is what MacBride has done in several previous novels, and very well.

But the bigger plot didn't convince. Apart from some points of uncharacteristic stupidity by McRae, it's too bitty, too obviously a framework on which to string the police bits and the gruesome bits. An extended trip to Poland, leaving most of the cast behind, doesn't help much. The characters are fine, and I still like to read about them, but the story is flat.

And the original case never seemed to be properly resolved. Nyy evtug, vg'f rfgnoyvfurq gung gur nggnpxf jrer qbar ol n fcrpvsvp crefba gelvat gb gnxr bire Noreqrra'f haqrejbeyq, svar. Ohg: jul Cbyrf? Jnf vg ernyyl whfg pbvapvqrapr gung gur svefg svir pevzvanyf jub arrqrq gb or znqr na rknzcyr bs unccrarq gb or Cbyvfu? Naq vs guvf vf zrnag gb fraq n zrffntr gb bgure pevzvanyf abg gb zrff jvgu uvz, jul gur enagvat yrggref, gung znxr vg ybbx gb gur choyvp yvxr frevny enpvfg nffnhyg? Vs gur pnzcnvta bs greebe vf univat ab rssrpg ba bgure pevzvanyf, vg'f cbvagyrff; vs vg vf univat na rssrpg, jbeq bhtug gb trg bhg gb gur yrff eryvnoyr pevzvanyf naq guhf gb gur cbyvpr. Ohg vg arire qbrf.

What I think MacBride's getting at is that successful police work very often involves drawing a conclusion from nothing like enough evidence, and a policeman's therefore having to do that all the time – so it's not at all surprising that McRae goes off half-cocked on the wrong track sometimes, because his mindset is about doing a thing now rather than waiting for more information while someone else is injured or killed and maybe the bad guys have escaped.

There's another problem with this book: that by the end McRae is fatally compromised, not just by the alcohol that he's using to deal with post-traumatic stress but by some of his actions late in the story. That's not the sort of thing you can just forget about and go back to doing your job. Some of my reaction to this book will have to wait until I've read how this is dealt with in the next one.

(Why does nobody ever say to a hostage-taker "Look, if you shoot him, we'll just shoot you. And you know it. So you can't shoot him and hope to live, so you aren't going to shoot him. So you might as well just put the gun down…"?)

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Previous in series: Flesh House | Series: Logan McRae | Next in series: Dark Blood

  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 03:58pm on 28 December 2019

    Polish immigrants having their eyes cut out.

    No way that's not going to turn up in Doctor Bob's VAMPIRE game...

  2. Posted by Dr Bob at 04:42pm on 29 December 2019

    Ah but that's in Aberdeen. Oldcastle is far seedier and far weirder. :-)

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