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 more noticeable.

Overall, this is an excellent read. Well crafted and exciting, it will leave you anticipating more from this talented author.

Return to Fall 2006 Table of Contents

© 2006 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved

Baby Love
If It Bleeds
Behind You!
No Help For The Dying
A Kind of Puritan
A Thankless Child
A Certain Malice