Friday, December 30, 2011
DARK BLOOD by Stuart MacBride (2010) Harper Collins Canada, 469 pages
When I heard Stuart MacBride on stage at an IFOA evening that featured his fellow Scottish crime fiction writers Denise Mina and Ian Rankin, I knew I'd find my way to his novels.
DARK BLOOD is my first exposure to MacBride's gritty, witty style. I have never guffawed aloud so frequently reading a crime novel as I did in response to the repartee between D.S. Logan McRae and his horny lesbian boss D.I. Steel. Their familiar patter is almost Shakespearean, putting me in mind of Benedick and Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, more about noting than nothing.
At the outset, serial rapist Richard Knox (who fancied grandfather types) is being released, having served his time. And, it looks like now that he's found God he's deserving of a second chance to build a life anew. D.I. Steel is not so sure. She knows Knox "is an odious wee shite, and if anything goes wrong" in his reacclimatization with civilized society that she'll be "the one carrying the can." McRae is less than thrilled to be assigned to the team responsible for getting Knox settled into his Aberdeen home, or to be working with D.S.I. Danby, the one who put Knox behind bars for a decade. McRae, like his boss, believes that Knox is not a changed man. That he "didn't need an exit strategy" to protect him from the wrath of citizens who discover he's living among them. Rather, "he needed an exit wound. Preferably from a shotgun to the back of the head."
Knox isn't McRae's only headache, however. Edinburgh gangster Malk the Knife wants a slice of the mini-development boom in Aberdeen and local crime lord Hamish Mowat thinks he has McRae in his blackmailing back pocket. McRae tries to resist, but he can't help feeling dirtied by their thuggish rapport.
With subplots that feel entirely human, peopled by McRae's damaged colleagues and his accommodating girlfriend, DARK BLOOD kept me interested on many levels. And, although I'd hoped to witness retributive justice meted out on the entirely loathsome Knox, I do understand why MacBride gave him the ending that he did. Life is messy. It doesn't come with a guarantee for a satisfying conclusion. Plus, Knox is a sociopath, one who could give "a seven-year masterclass in how to get away with murder."
Because of the crafty, clever way MacBride tells a story, I'll be reading my way through all of his books featuring D.S. Logan McRae.