Dark Blood, By Stuart MacBride

The Mac pack make a killing

Barry Forshaw
Sunday 23 October 2011 03:59

Stuart MacBride is corrupting the children of Britain. Not content with writing his lacerating crime fiction for adults, he is polluting the youth of the nation with his young-adult outing Sawbones, which had the Sunday papers fulminating against "a novel full of expletives, sex and violence". One paper even calculated how many times the F-word and its variants had been used: 89 times, to be exact.

Needless to say, this tsunami of moral outrage did absolutely no harm to sales of the book. And it might be argued that the softly spoken Scottish writer has done young adult readers something of a service. When they move on to MacBride's adult titles, they will be perfectly primed for the incendiary mix of gruesome incident and idiomatic writing that is the hallmark of the author's crime fiction and its tough copper, Logan McRae.

What better place for that legion of fresh-faced new readers to start than with the latest McRae, Dark Blood? As in such earlier outings as Cold Granite and Broken Skin, we're served up some of the grittiest crime-writing in the field. But while MacBride might seem to be setting out to make fellow Celts Val McDermid and Ian Rankin look as genteel as Alexander McCall Smith, there is much more to him than that. The McRae books sport some of the pithiest snapshots of modern urban life this side of Irvine Welsh, and the plotting has a cohesion that puts most writers in the genre to shame.

Logan McRae is handed a particularly unwelcome job. He is to be involved in the relocation of a vicious rapist, Richard Knox. The latter has served his time and found God, putting his many sexual assaults behind him, and is to be moved from his native Newcastle to McRae's beat of Aberdeen.

The auguries are not good, particularly as Edinburgh hard man Malk the Knife is muscling into the property-development boom, and a gangland accountant has gone missing. The elements are in place for violence and combustion. This is quintessential Stuart MacBride: tartan noir etched in the darkest of hues and garnished with dialogue so sharp you may cut yourself. But if you're the parent of a teenager, perhaps it would be best not to read any passages out loud. Or, if you do, don't tell the Sunday newspapers.

Barry Forshaw's book about Stieg Larsson, 'The Man Who Left Too Soon', is published by John Blake

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