Tag Archives: Stuart MacBride

Three quick reviews: Stuart MacBride, Elizabeth Little, Rebecca Stead

The fines are piling up, so I’m going to do a quick review and cover three library books before they open the Burgess wing of the Okemos Public Library.  (Library fines = still cheaper than buying everything you want to read!

goodbyeFirst up:  A YA book titled Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead.  Bridget Barsamian, still on the wrong side of puberty but looking across the abyss, survived a deadly accident a few years ago.  Now she wonders, why?  Is there something special she is meant to do?  Bridge navigates the murky waters of middle school, where the cool kids seem unattainably cool, the teachers seem irrepressibly quirky, and long-time friends change before your eyes.  The good news is that guy you’ve always kinda been friends with is looking attractive to you in an unusual and hard-to-understand way.  Stead has a wonderful way of revealing character through plot and alternates the point of view throughout to excellent effect.  I’ve read lightly in the YA field but this is one that’s very worthwhile!

daughterCan you say unreliable narrator?  If you love a suspense novel with a main character who is not necessarily to be trusted, you’ll enjoy the second book:  Elizabeth Little’s Dear Daughter.    Janie Jenkins – former edgy teenage bad girl – is just out of prison, having done ten years for the murder of her mother, socialite  Marion Elsinger.  Now she’s on the run from the paparazzi and on the trail of her mother’s past.  Did she kill her mom?  If not, who did?  And if she didn’t do it, why did her mother write Jane’s name in blood on the floor, even as her life ebbed away?  A strong voice, solid characters, twisty plot that comes together believably in the end – all makes Dear Daughter a thumbs up.

missingLast but not least is Stuart MacBride’s The Missing and the Dead, featuring the ever-hilariously effective despite himself Scots detective Logan MacRae.  I’ve written about MacBride’s series before, here, and I was looking forward to the latest entry (book #9).  Almost 600 pages later, I closed the book and wished it were longer.  MacRae’s been transferred to divisional policing, and he’s on the job when a little girl’s body washes up outside town.  Getting an identification is going to be tough, and MacRae is soon playing nursemaid of a sorts to a lovely, sad woman named Helen, whose daughter is missing.  She both hopes and fears that the body is her daughter’s.   As usual, Logan MacRae bucks the wishes of his superiors to investigate a pedophile ring, and as usual, manages to pull it off with no permanent damage to his own career.  On hand is the irascible DI Steele (happily married lesbian, with two kids thanks to Logan) and an assortment of capable coppers, hapless citizens and various lowlifes.  It’s a terrifically engaging and humorous police procedural.

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Stuart MacBride writes a rough, rollicking Aberdeen procedural

goodreads_logo_140-5b3e47356388131c1699f0baca28a234My Goodreads participation has paid off, big time.  I was trolling about for e-books to download in preparation for my cruise with my fabulous with spouse, and Goodreads suggested that I’d like Stuart MacBride.  And I do.

stuartMacBride writes a series featuring Aberdeen detective Logan MacRae, who is smart but not perfect, has a penchant for falling in love (or at least, rolling into the sack ) with women he works with.  He struggles mightily to triumph over the criminals, but often loses.

It’s pretty common in fiction for minor characters to be killed off – either to show how bad the bad guy is, or to allow the main character to have sufficient motivation to work hard, or to give the main character depth.   It’s like the third guy when Scottie beams that guy, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock down to a hostile planet.  He’s doomed.

MacBride doesn’t play that game.  Terrible stuff happens to ongoing characters and they… just keep going.  Even MacRae.  In Cold Granite, the first book in the series, DS MacRae is dealing with the aftermath of a frenzied knife attack by a crazed suspect, who stabbed him dozens of time.  In fact, MacRae died for a time, resulting in his nickname:  Lazarus.

Another example?  A friend of MacRae’s is tortured.  Bits of him are simply hacked off.   He blames MacRae but ultimately the heat of anger simmers down to philosophical acceptance, seasoned with infrequent hard-edged joshing.  And in Dark Blood, the bad guy/victim is a man who served his time for rape.  Not women.  Not children.  Not little boys.  Grandpas.  Extra big ick factor.  You won’t love the guy, but you don’t want to see him treated the way he’s treated in this book.

Still, this isn’t noir.  The books are gritty, but they are also hilarious.  Ridiculous jokes.  Farting about (literally).  Great characters, like DI Roberta Steel.  In Dying Light, Laz is demoted into her “Screw-up Squad.”  His detecting skills shine particularly brightly among these least of the dim bulbs.  Steel may make her squad recite “We are not at home to Mr. Fuck Up” as a daily motivational mantra, but the squad is frequently at home to Mr. Fuck Up.   Steel has a strong desire to demonstrate her competence, but she’s also a foul-mouthed, 40-ish lesbian who looks 60+, smokes like a chimney, speculates outrageously about everyone and anyone’s sexual proclivities and prowess, and rules her own squad with an iron hand while flouting her superiors.

There are seven books in the series.  In order, they are:

  1. Cold Granite
  2. Dying Light
  3. Broken Skin
  4. Flesh House
  5. Blind Eye
  6. Dark Blood
  7. Shatter the Bones

So far, I’ve read the first five in order, and I really recommend that you do so, also.  Although each book is complete unto itself, you’ll get the most out of the experience if you start with Cold Granite and work your way forward.

Who shouldn’t read Stuart MacBride?  If you can’t stand violence, or want your cops to be super-human or super-serious, you won’t appreciate his books.  If you want a fresh series that’s gritty but cheeky, you’ll love him.

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