All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Cold Granite – Stuart MacBride

on June 22, 2010

I’m developing a real appreciation for procedurals. I’m not sure if it’s the growing number of them on TV…the reading of all the Kathy Reichs books I’ve one lately…or some other reason. But lately, I’ve been pretty happy to curl up with a good crime mystery. And this one is no exception.

This is Stuart MacBride’s first novel and as debuts go, it’s pretty tightly done. Detective Sargeant Logan McRae is back reporting for duty after a year off on sick leave. He was stabbed, multiple times (23, apparently) in the abdomen by a murderer nicknamed the “Mastrick Monster”. It took seven hours for a surgeon to sew DS McRae’s inside’s back together and he bears hideous scars and suffers from searing pain.

But the book is not really about that. Instead it’s about the case he catches on his first day back on the job. The body of missing 3yo toddler David Reid is found in a ditch. He’s been strangled. Mutilated. As the mother of a 22 month old toddler myself, I did find parts of the novel a hard slog, but not because the novel is extremely graphic: it isn’t. In fact most of the details are revealed in a clinical, dispassionate way and are the true definition of less is more. You aren’t shown in verbal diarrhea by one of the characters what has happened to this poor child (and later, others). You’re given the basic facts and left to imagine it yourself. And that is far, far worse. It was all I could do not to scoop up my little boy and hug him during various stages of this novel.

The child has been missing three months and was probably in the ditch for a good portion of that time. Forensic evidence is minimal and leads aren’t really in abundance. The media is howling for a result, a matter complicated by the fact that one of the journalists obviously has inside information. That leaves Logan’s superiors looking at him – if he isn’t the leak then he’d better find who is and fix it. Quickly!

Then the dead kids start piling up.

The cops are stumped. There is no clear pattern. Confidential information is still being leaked to the media. Every suspect they question doesn’t provide them with the answers they want to hear. DS McRae knows that time is running out to crack this case and put away this depraved individual. He’s dealing with other issues too – his ex-girlfriend, the cool-as-ice pathologist Isobel MacAlister. They were dating when the Mastrick Monster took her. And when Logan saved her and suffered at the hands of the killer. Why they are not dating now is not clearly explained but there’s definitely some unresolved issues there. They’re not getting resolved any time soon by the looks of things and seemingly ready to move on, Logan turns his eye to his assisting WPC Jacky Watson. The characters are believable and likable. Logan isn’t some cool, calm and sardonic cop. Nor is he a nutter slamming back alcohol just to function. He’s embarrassed about his “Police Hero” tag. Actually I think he blushes more in this novel the I’ve ever known a male main character to blush before. He makes mistakes. Errors in judgement. It was very refreshing to see his awkwardness and his lack of comfort and self confidence at times.

Woven into the storyline, adding to the gloom is the description of the city. The novel is set in Aberdeen, Scotland and I don’t think it stops raining for the entire novel (which spans about 11-12 days, set in November). There is snow, and sleet as well. Despite Scotland being somewhat the motherland of my family (albeit quite a few generations back now) I’m no expert so I googled Aberdeen. Days average less than 7hrs in length in winter, in December. That lengthens to about 8hrs in January. A lot of the buildings are constructed from granite – all in all, it paints a pretty bleak picture! A perfect setting for this sort of miserable crime.

This novel isn’t something I would’ve normally chosen to read. I picked it up off Booktopia during one of their clearance sales for $3.98, along with a half dozen other books. I figured that for $4, it wouldn’t be hard to get my money’s worth. Having read it, I’d say I’d have got my money’s worth even if I paid full price. It was a well written, well thought out, intricate little story with strength of characters and plot. The DS Logan McRae series is due to span 8 books (of which 6 are already published). I will definitely be buying the second book and if it’s as good as this one, I’ll keep going.


(Book #36 of my 50 Book Challenge)

The Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
Europe: #1: Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride. Set in Aberdeen, Scotland.
North America (incl Central America)
South America
Try to find novels from twelve different countries or states.

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