RogerBW's Blog

Dying Light, Stuart MacBride 20 November 2018

2006 police procedural mystery, tartan noir, second in the Logan McRae series. A house is burned down, with the doors fastened shut so that the occupants can't escape; a prostitute turns up battered to death; and DS McRae deals with the aftermath of a bungled raid, and tries to serve two masters.

McRae comes over as rather less sympathetic this time: he reads a situation and leaps to an understanding of it, which is useful, but then fails to take in further information, instead sticking to his original reading, and thus gets into trouble. He's not well suited to playing police politics, but keeps trying to do it anyway.

DI Steel, who was relatively sympathetic in the first book, comes off badly here; some of that's McRae's misreading of her, but not all of it. It doesn't seem entirely consistent with her characterisation as shown before.

People get hurt, and killed, and things go badly until they go right; and if the reader is saying "look at this obvious connection", well, the reader has better information than the detectives do, from those short sequences of crime in progress that set off the longer passages of detection.

This could have been a rather shorter book without quite as much banter, but to some extent the banter is the point; at the other extreme one could have one of those mysteries by John Dickson Carr that are all about the puzzle, with characterisation skin stretched thin over the bones of the characters' roles in the plot. This is more character than puzzle, but there are still puzzles that can legitimately be solved.

'Then how do you know she was a prostitute?'

'Handbag full of condoms. No ID, but loads and loads of condoms. Could have been an erotic balloon modeller I suppose, but my money's on tart.'

Even so, there's perhaps just a little too much repetition of some of the motifs, particularly "MacLeod answers his phone and lets himself get talked into coming in on his day off" / "MacLeod turns off his phone just when it would be a really good idea to answer it".

Not a cheerful book (well, as far as I can tell none of MacBride's books is cheerful), but good solid stuff. Series recommended by Gus; followed by Broken Skin.

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Previous in series: Cold Granite | Series: Logan McRae | Next in series: Broken Skin

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