* Prices may differ from that shown
Cold Granite is the first novel by Stuart Macbride and the first to feature DS Logan McRae, eponymous hero of the Aberdeen police force. The novel is exclusively set in Aberdeen and begins the story of Logan, the Aberdeen police force and the wider Aberdeen community the series is now into its sixth novel.
DS Logan McRae is a likeable man in his thirties, reasonably good looking, intelligent and resourceful. He is however a man with a capacity for getting into trouble, annoying his superiors and somehow making the worse of any situation. In this novel, he has just returned from a year off ill after a killer knifed him repeatedly in the stomach. The wounds are still raw both physically and mentally and the events have led to his relationship with the city coroner Isobel to breakdown. He has the support of his inferiors and the trust of his superiors and when on the first day of the job the dead body of a three year old boy is discovered he is in for a week of hell.
The investigation into the little boy soon becomes a murder inquiry led by sweetie consuming DI Insch, he is large, prone to swearing and a liking for amateur theatrics. The investigation is also compromised by important information being leaked to a local journalist Colin Miller. The three along with PC Jackie Watson who is given to McRae as a helper and nursemaid if needed are the central characters in the story.
The story then continues on familiar lines or so the reader may feel, kids go missing McRae, Insch and Watson troop around Aberdeen uncovering clues, red herrings, interrogate suspects and generally lead a confused sorry mess. However, there are more subtle events unfolding which hold the reader's attention, firstly the disappearances aren't all they are initially made out to be. There is a totally (at first) unconnected story of a man found in the local river, a man collecting dead animals and the chilly atmosphere between McRae and Isobel.
The book is graphic in some details but thankfully the author doesn't go into stomach churning over the top detail. However, the subject matter at large is disturbing disappearing children, dead children, parasitic paedophiles all feature and make disturbing reader for this father of two little boys.
You could knock a point or two off the story due to its rather predictable use of the shocking to grab the reader's attention. That would be very unfair because the writer is good enough to keep the reader's attention even in the middle of the most harrowing of scenes. He also sprinkles the book with a little bit of humour, the odd line here and there, the slightly over the top inspectors and the antics of a sleazy lawyer. The author also lets the reader enjoy the novel, he doesn't feel the need to constantly jump from one scene to the next giving only half a picture of what's going on, he if the situation is right will explain or expand on events if in the normal course of the investigation that is what would have happened.
The author also lets the reader work out events for themselves, sometimes correctly but other times incorrectly but that surely is a prime reason for reading murder mysteries. Indeed all the answers are there in the body of the novel only for McRae and Insch to bring together at the conclusion, there is no need to bring out a barely mentioned character at the conclusion to lay the blame on.
I, can I say enjoyed? I certainly found the novel engaging and it kept me coming back to find out how McRae, Watson and Insch were doing in the investigations and surely that's the best recommendation for a decent read? Enjoyed is perhaps a strong term for a book which is centred on a child killer and paedophile rings but it certainly grips and doesn't let go.
The final though is that since I read this novel and the first blood novel by MacBride my language has gotten a little more course, a lot of the language in the novel is classic working class Scottish. So there is a lot of F word, S word, C word and a few others and everything is peppered with the word wee which has crept into my language over the last two weeks.
This proved to be an excellent debut novel and the author has continued in fine form ever since.
Cold Granite is the first novel by Stuart McBride. I had to check this whilst I was reading it, as it reads like a well established series. A lot of this is probably done on purpose, as the plot of the previous, non existant book is explained as we go along. I quite like this as a plot device, as it makes you feel that you have been dropped into characters which have a history. The previous plot is also a bit tongue in cheek, following a routine serial rapist and killer investigation, which builds to a thrilling climax where the main character, DS Logan McRae is stabbed brutally in the stomach. In Cold Granite, we meet him returning to work after a year out on the sick.
The book is set in Aberdeen and it depicts the granite buildings of the title and the cold dreech weather brilliantly. There is quite a bit of local slang in it, which can often annoy me, but it seems to flow ok in this dialogue. DS McRae is thrown in at the deep end, investigating a few different crimes, the main one of which is children going missing in the city. The body count is unrelenting and so is the gore and horror of the situations we discover. At times I felt really uneasy reading this, as my own son is so close to the age of the missing kids, it's basically describing every parent's worst nightmare and is hard to read at times. The only thing that kept me reading was the characters.
The main character, Logan is an alright bloke, although I found the sheer herociness of his deeds a bit irksome towards the end. He probably could have done with some more flaws, but I guess we see enough flawed, troubled detectives in novels by other writers. The brilliant touches though are the supporting cast. His boss, DI Insch is a work of genius, the kind of guy you would love to hate, but end up loving more. Tiny touches about people's personalities, like Insch's sweetie addiction add to the humor and make this an enjoyable read, despite the gore.
There is certainly a lot to get your teeth into in terms of plot as well, as there are about 5 different subplots which are all neatly tied up, all be it in often macabre ways! As with most of the thriller genre at the moment though, it's more the personal lives of the characters which keep your attention, rather than the big main storyline.
In conclusion, I will certainly be looking out for the next installment in the series, as this was an easy and enjoyable read.
I'd wanted to read Stuart MacBride's series of books staring DS Logan McRae for a long time, and I can't believe I put it off for so long!
** The Author **
Stuart MacBride was born in Scotland moved to Aberdeen with his family when he was two years old. He flunked out of university but set up his own graphic design company, before being dragged into the world of the Internet, developing massive applications for the oil industry. He lives with his wife Fiona in Scotland, and it's easy to see that the step from web design to writing books was a simple one for him, as his books have been a massive success. His has won awards including winning the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for Breakthrough Author of the Year in 2008 for Broken Skin.
** The Book **
Set in a very cold and wet Aberdeen the book dives straight in at the crime scene of the first murdered child, discovered in a ditch, mutilated and has clearly been dead a long time. However this child is only the first, and soon others are found across the Granite City.
Reading the back cover blurb this might just sound like your average crime thriller read, however I must assure you that this book is so much more than average. This was made clear to me just from the first few opening pages. The star of this book is Detective Sergeant Logan McRae who has just returned from a year on the sick, and just like any other good lead detective in a crime thriller, he has a past. Thankfully however MacBride doesn't spend a great deal of time dwelling on McRae's past, and as the book goes on it occasionally pops up at relevant times meaning you can piece together yourself just what has happened. There's nothing that bores me more than reading long paragraphs of a lead character's past, usually consisting of divorce, or something happening to them as a child. This book however is a breath of fresh air as it concentrates on the story to hand, moving along at a good pace.
We meet DS Logan's boss DI Insch quite early on. I love how MacBride has given this man a strange quirk, he loves eating sweets. In fact all the way through this book at various points DI Insch is scrambling through his pockets for a packet of wine gums or a fizzy cola bottle. Being a big lover of sweets myself this made me out to be quite hungry at times! DS Logan does wonder early on why Insch has this sweet obsession, however doesn't think much of it during the rest of the book, and it becomes apparent Insch isn't your average DI as he also loves to star in pantomimes. This might all sound quite strange but it's really not as you're reading the book, and it really makes this book even more original than any other in the genre, as the characters have their quirks that really make them stand out.
We also meet WPC Watson, a woman with the nick name of "Ball Breaker." She's the one often accompanying Logan as they investigate the matters of the missing or murdered children and it soon becomes apparent Logan has a crush on Watson. One part of the book actually had me really amused, and it's really very interesting reading through the two character's interactions and wondering 'will they or won't they!'
Obviously the death of a child is horrific, especially so when that child has been murdered and mutilated by some sick pervert, and MacBride does a brilliant job of capturing just how awful each crime scene is, and making the reader really involved in what is happening. I loved the pace of this book, and despite it consisting of 575 pages there was honestly not one point where I thought it was being dragged out and I looked forward to coming home from work to read this book! The fact that there isn't one dull moment should persuade you enough to want to go out and buy this book, and there's enough in here to keep you guessing and determined to find out who is behind everything.
The book is set in Aberdeen and the weather in this book really plays a significant part. Right from the start where the first crime scene is being flooded to when the snow starts falling towards the end of the book, you feel glad for being tucked up warm reading this one! I actually started reading this book at the same time as the actual floods happened at Grampian in the news, so it's clear to see that MacBride has lived through Aberdeen's awful weather himself for a long time and it's very true to life. Even the small details such as every time they jump into a car ready to head out to somewhere they have to sit and wait for the heat blowers to clear the windscreen, makes this book just that much more better than others.
Of course it all comes together nicely at the end, with all questions answered and no stone left unturned. There were lots of surprises in this book for me and I can't honestly say I knew or guessed any of the answers before they were unfolded, and this is hugely important for me. I hate it when an author drops a very obvious clue into a crime thriller book, when it turns out not to be a red herring it leaves me annoyed as I believe a good book doesn't assume the reader is an idiot. MacBride might leave an occasional clue, but thankfully all is never what it may seem!
MacBride has often been hailed as the new Ian Rankin, unfortunately these days any crime thriller set in Scotland is labelled as an Ian Rankin wannabe, but judging from this book there is going to be a lot of differences from Rankin's smaller stories. At one point in the book DS Logan finds a PC reading a Rankin book and laughs at him about it in a light hearted way. I personally found this to be a sign that MacBride's story is more 'true to life' as I really found that reading this myself, and the differences between Aberdeen and Edinburgh (the setting of Rankin's novels) are obvious. Whilst I do like reading Rankin's series starring Rebus, I often leave a good amount of time between each book in the series. However after reading MacBride's first offering, I'm not inclined to pick up any other book as I'm desperate to get stuck into the second book Dying Light straight away.
I really can't recommend this book enough. It was a brilliant read with no dull moments and tons of shocks and surprises, making this one of the best in the crime thriller genre!
If you love reading crime-fiction from the likes of Ian Rankin and Graham Hurley then find a place alongside those greats for Stuart Macbride. 'Cold Granite is the first in his series of books featuring Detective Sergeant Logan McRae who has just returned to work following a year off sick thanks to a near-fatal stabbing and who walks straight into a murder enquiry involving the abandonned and mutilated corpse of a 3 year old child. Things don't get any better for the DS as this marks the beginning of a serial killer and more children are going missing.
As with all his books the subject matter is very dark indeed but it is entirely offset by the characters that surround Logan as he tries to do his job - from WPC 'Ball-Breaker' Watson to the forever sweet-chewing DI Insch, his ex-lover-come-pathologist and her new partner who just so happens to be a journalist, he is forever hindered in his search for the killer. The dialogue is first-rate and often hilariously funny but this does not take the edge off this gritty novel merely adds a little light in all the black.
I cannot rate this highly enough. I love Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin et al. but would sit and read Macbride if I had to chose a book to lose myself in for a day or two (or three).
As a footnote - if you buy book also go to www.stuartmacbride.com he has a selection of photographs showing the actual places featured in the novel.