BY STUART MACBRIDE
Review by Stephen Blackmoore
One of the most difficult things for any author is to give
his or her characters a life beyond the page, a sense that,
once they're out of the action, they go off to the rest
of their lives. The police chief goes home to his wife and
kids, the coroner heads off to dinner with her new boyfriend.
Stuart MacBride does this remarkably well in his latest
book, Dying Light. The second in his series with Logan McRae,
a detective sergeant in the Grampian police force.
Things have not gone well for DS Logan McRae since the end
of the first book, Cold Granite. Between books, his leading
of a raid has left an officer in a coma. As punishment he
has been assigned to DI Steel's "Screw-Up Squad".
In the midst of this there's an arsonist, a serial killer
going after prostitutes and his relationship with WPC Jackie
Watson is feeling the strain of both their jobs.
It's this last that really makes the book. Not the relationship
per se, but the fact that MacBride creates as vivid a life
for his characters in their off-page worlds as on. Logan
McRae's greatest struggles aren't with Aberdeen's criminals,
but with the politics and bureaucracy of his own police
force, with the difficulties he has just trying to cope
with the day to day.
Logan McRae is the kind of guy you want to go drinking with.
He isn't a tortured soul. He isn't an alcoholic or a man
living on the edge. He's just a guy trying to live his life
and do his job. His worst decisions are made when he tries
to play the same politics that his superiors play, his best
when he's just trying to be a decent human being.
Stuart MacBride creates a strong sense of past in his books.
And though it is very clearly one of a series, Dying Light
doesn't suffer from a lot of exposition. In the hands of
a lesser writer one might feel the need to read the previous
novel just to get a sense of what's happening.
Instead, Dying Light stands very well on its own. Exposition
is kept to a minimum, and there's trust that the reader
is intelligent enough to understand what's going on without
having to spell out everything in great detail as though
we're a bunch of six-year-olds.
The plot is convoluted without being complicated, with enough
twists and turns to keep it exciting from the word go. The
cast of characters are intriguing without resorting to over
the top stereotypes, managing to make the ups and downs
of regular people exciting and interesting.
My one complaint about the book has to do with a particular
subplot involving a housewife and her obnoxious neighbor
that felt out of place, almost as though it were tacked
on as an afterthought. There was a little too much attention
paid to it for all the relevance it had to the story, like
watching a street magician with bad sleight of hand. Considering
how skillfully the rest of book is woven, it's that much
Overall, this is an excellent read. Well crafted and exciting,
it will leave you anticipating more from this talented author.
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