Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Broken Skin: Stuart MacBride, January 19—26, 2016
My rating: ♦♦♦♦♦
Detective Logan McRae is back with another handful of cases – this time with no gory decomposing bodies! This time he’s juggling a runaway eight-year-old murderer, a victim of murder or BDSM misadventure, and increasingly violent rapes that may be the handiwork of the local star footballer.
Detective Inspectors Insch and Steel get pretty much equal page time, and it’s dynamite as they play off McRae’s reluctant loyalties to each of them. If Cold Granite had Steel as a supporting character, and Dying Light as an interloper, it’s in Broken Skin that she becomes a bona fide co-star. She’s outrageous and hysterical.
The supporting characters are all perfectly drawn out and drawn in. Big Gary is always slurping tea and complaining McRae’s phone is switched; Hissing Sid is still at his sneaky, infuriating best; Ma, the local bookie, is hilarious and Colin Miller has to embrace fatherhood with fewer fingers than he’s used to.
MacBride’s tongue-in-cheek writing style offsets the horrendous nature of the crimes. The downright cruelty of our villains is viewed through a withering and sarcastic lens. That’s not to say it’s trivialised; Jackie Watson and even Insch are horrified on behalf of the victims of crime – particularly the rapes – and there are genuinely sobering moments.
He also does a great job of showing his research without being a show off. Where Connelly can be guilty of lengthy exposition of police procedures or systems, MacBride is more subtle. We learn a lot without ever being coached. There’s even a nod to the other great Scottish crime writer of our time: Ian Rankin.
It’s hilarious – genuinely laugh-out-loud funny – and brilliantly paced. Broken Skin is moreish and very entertaining, packing a punch with its final cliffhanger that could make the next instalment a game changer. In short, this is crime fiction at its most flawless.