In the Cold Dark Ground, by Stuart MacBride - book review: Drop of the hard stuff from tartan noir heavyweight

The new book will be catnip to MacBride admirers: brutal, unsparing and plotted with the kind of assurance that is a sine qua non for this writer

Barry Forshaw
Tuesday 29 December 2015 17:24
Comments

The recent death of the Godfather of Tartan Noir, William McIlvanney, may have deprived Scottish crime fiction of the man who kick-started the entire subgenre with his novel Laidlaw, but the ranks of north-of-the-border literary skulduggery are still thronging, with such established luminaries as Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, while young pretenders such as Malcolm Mackay make their mark. Somewhere in between the veterans and the tyros is Dumbarton-born writer Stuart MacBride, who for a decade has been building up a heavyweight reputation with his novels featuring tough copper Logan McRae.

MacBride does not write novels for the squeamish. But for those with their fingers on the pulse of contemporary crime fiction, MacBride is considered top drawer, and this 10th book in the McRae series demonstrates precisely why. There is the abrasive, vivid prose, the pungent evocation of McRae's stamping ground, Aberdeen, and – best of all – the hard-edged characterisation of McRae and his team.

In the Cold Dark Ground shows that MacBride is not interested in repeating himself, even though familiar fingerprints are here. And at over 500 pages, this is perhaps the author's most epic outing yet. An investigation has resulted in the discovery of a naked corpse in the woods, hands bound and a bin bag taped over the head.

The Major Investigation Team arrives from Aberdeen with Logan's ex-boss, DCI Steel, in charge. Logan, however, is well aware that he will be expected to do the heavy lifting in the case, but there are more onerous problems than catching a murderer.

A new superintendent from the Serious Organised Crime Task Force has the beleaguered McRae (as well as the under-suspicion Steel) firmly in her sights. The breaking of police careers is in the offing, even as another powder keg has been ignited – the unpleasant capo of Aberdeen's criminal underworld, Wee Hamish Mowat, is about to breathe his last, and criminal upstarts throughout the whole of the British Isles have every intention of muscling in on his territory. McRae has three things on his plate: a vicious killer, forensic professional scrutiny and a potential bloody gang war.

The new book will be catnip to MacBride admirers: brutal, unsparing and plotted with the kind of assurance that is a sine qua non for this writer. If you turn to crime fiction for gentle escapism, look elsewhere. But if you've a taste for a drop of the hard stuff, Aberdeen-style, you need not hesitate.

HarperCollins, £16.99. Order for £14.99 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in