Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Cold Granite: Stuart MacBride, July 17—30, 2013
My rating: ♦♦♦♦♦
McRae is a likeable protagonist with a genuine back story: allusions to his professional and personal life pre-novel make this clear. He is haunted by an injury sustained in a previous case and is burned from the breakdown of a relationship.
The star is presented as fundamentally human. He has hope, ambition and refreshing optimism when it’s warranted, despite his demons. He isn’t an alcoholic or a divorcee. He forms genuine opinions of people and situations, which evolve over time. He has highs and lows and no insanely outlandish eureka moments.
The supporting cast are an equally excellent bunch. Detective Inspectors Insch and Steel steal every scene they appear in, particularly the single-buttock-perching, sweetie-munching, ever-ranting Insch who brings colour with each appearance. Journalist Colin Miller, lawyer ‘Sid the Snake’ Moir-Faquarson, pathologist Isobel and WPC Jackie ‘Ball-Breaker’ Watson are other stand outs.
As the novel continues, the supporting cast also develop where lesser writers leave their extras to stagnate in the background. Interpersonal relationships between the factions also adjust as the story unfolds.
Onto the case, and the chilling, sometimes gruesome, abductions and mutilations of children are investigated by Aberdeen’s police force. A secondary investigation involves the knee-capping and dumping of an Edinburgh chancer. It’s incredibly well-plotted, with red herrings and misdirection all along the way. Instead of your run-of-the-mill “someone’s a serial killer” thread, there are genuine suspects who are counted in and counted out like some sort of judicial hokey-kokey which makes a genuinely interesting and often surprising read.
McBride’s writing style is excellent. With dry wit and enough black humour, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments both inside and outside of the dialogue – genuine audible guffaws. The Aberdeen McBride paints is authentic and consistent, with the weather becoming a de facto character and amusing running theme. The pace is also perfect, with no fillers yet always enough time to see the effects of various twists play out and think about what might happen next.
My only quibble is with the very last page. A surprise twist in the denouement was weak. It seemed unnecessary and added nothing to the plot, causing what would have been a perfectly acceptable closing scene to end with an anti-climax. It would have been better omitted, but takes nothing away from what preceded it.
In short, McRae is set up for a long and brilliant series in Aberdeen’s police HQ. MacBride’s story and patter are second to none, and he never misses a moment to develop his characters and plots. The only thing more inevitable than reading the next book, is not visiting Aberdeen ever again!