RogerBW's Blog

Shatter the Bones, Stuart MacBride 24 November 2023

2011 police procedural mystery, tartan noir, seventh in the Logan McRae series. The most popular contestants on Britain's Next Big Star have been kidnapped – but is it all a hoax by the promoter? Meanwhile the target of a drugs bust seems to think he can get Logan to get him the drugs back…

The realisation I came to while reading this book is that I'm not really supposed to care about Logan or wish him to do well; he's primarily a vehicle for bad things to happen to, often through his own fault (except, as always, in the final third of the book, when he suddenly flips from getting everything wrong to getting everything right, and salvages a victory out of previous errors). That's a bit of stylistic distancing that doesn't sit well with me, and I think it's a good thing that I'm reading these books relatively rarely.

Logan's still fatally compromised by his association with a crime boss, and… nothing seems to come of it. He's still in a terrible mental state, but he only accepts a minimum of therapy, and only when forced. Because any change would involve him actually getting on with his life, either up or down, rather than being an unchanging character who always takes the option offering the least immediate hassle. By the end of all this he may have a temporary good reputation (again), but the reader who's got this far knows that he's going to start as a screw-up in the next book (again). There's no sense of progress between one book and the next, either in his career or in his personality, and while an iconic character is all very well, I prefer a series to have some sense of progression.

Also, "Girlfriend In A Coma" was recorded by The Smiths in 1987 and by 24 years later was very much a cliché for a depressing situation. That might have held more emotional force if there'd been any sense of positivity in the relationship before the incident, rather than the feeling I got that Logan has a girlfriend because having a girlfriend is the easiest path for him to take.

The actual plot is a decent one, though there are many false leads and very few genuine ones; and my personal preference is to avoid cuts away to the victim's ordeal, because (a) it gives the reader information that isn't available to the detectives, thus spoiling the puzzle aspect of the story, and (b) they can too easily become prurient, both of which happen a little here. As always, police work in Aberdeen is grim and sticky; and even Logan notices that it's always sunny when he's stuck indoors, always raining when he's outside, in a new version of the pathetic fallacy.

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