stuart macbride

Review: A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride

A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride, Paperback, HarperCollins Publishers, May 2017, 608p

4.5 stars

 

I’m a huge fan of Stuart MacBride’s McRae and Steel series and although A Dark So Deadly doesn’t fit into that fictional universe, it certainly will appeal to fans of that series.  The characters in this novel are entertaining, well-drawn, and a real credit to the author. A Dark So Deadly has cemented MacBride as one of the best thriller writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and is fast becoming one of my go to recommendations for family and friends when they want a twisted crime read.

For fans of either the McRae or Henderson series by MacBride, the setting will be blissfully familiar: the Scotland that inhabits this novel is wet, miserable and full of various butties. One of the best things about this book is that you really get a feel for where the action is taking place, similar to the writing in the first three or four Logan McRae novels.

The characters of A Dark So Deadly are certainly interesting. The plot follows DC Callum MacGregor, who has recently joined the ‘Misfit Mob’ because he’s apparently rubbish at his job. The remaining members of the crew are colourful, there’s DI “Mother” Malcolmson who is recovering from a massive heart attack, DS McAdams who is dying of cancer and insists on constantly talking in verse, DC Franklin, the latest addition to the team who seems to have a stick stuck up somewhere, DS ‘Dotty’ Hodgkin, who is confined to a wheelchair and is one of the few likeable characters in the novel, and DC Watt, who is one of the least likeable characters of any novel ever written. Watching these guys try and crack a rapidly evolving case is part comedy, part tragedy, but 100% entertainment.

While not believable, the plot is certainly twisted – with red herrings and misdirection aplenty. I was sure I had worked out what was happening about three quarters of the way through the novel, and while I had guessed some things correctly, other parts of the conclusion floored me. It’s one of MacBride’s strengths, being able to keep his reader guessing until the last.

I’m tempted to classify this book as a comedy – although with such dark content it certainly would offend some lovers of that genre – MacGregor’s life just gets worse and worse and you can’t help but feel sorry, and you certainly spend a good amount of the book laughing at him and his antics. This novel is long, but the combination of the killer plot, humour,  and excellent characters, you’re happy to stick around to the last page. 

I’d recommend this novel to anyone who likes dark, twisted stories of any variety. Certainly, to people with strong stomachs. This is a standalone novel of the highest order, one where you get to bond with the characters in a manner normally found in series. A Dark So Deadly is a great place to start if you are wanting to pick up MacBride’s writing: although you might find yourself addicted, just like I have.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best 2016 Releases so far

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday’s topic (hosted by The Broke and The Bookish) is best 2016 releases so far in 2016. As I’ve been focusing on reading classics and catching up on some backlist series, I haven’t been as focused on reading new releases in the first half of this glorious year. As a result, I’ve only read 5 – and so I’ve selected my favourite 3 to share with you all in this Top Three Tuesday. It’s still a TTT, so chill.

  1. Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Storey

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Have I raved about this book enough in the past month? Trust me, the answer is NO. This book deserves all the accolades and applause (and even then deserves more). I’m really looking forward to Storey’s next work. For a debut, this sure felt like it came from the pen of a seasoned thriller writer. Sharp, vivid and thrilling, it has all the stuff I love – great characters, excellent setting and non-stop action. It’s not even published yet… and I’m SO excited. I feel like I should hold a baby shower for this damn thing – it’s become such a part of the family.

2. The Sandpit by Stephen Leather

the sandpit Oh Spider Shepherd, how I love thee. Of course the latest release in the Spider Shepherd series made this list. It’s only a novella, but if you read it twice that’s novel length, right? It’s a prequel to Hard Landing that I never realised I needed so bad. Life is beautiful now I have my own copy. You know you love a book when you get a netgalley copy but still buy a copy just so you can own it. Also, I don’t want Stephen Leather to starve to death (not that I think we’re in danger of that) so I need to keep supporting him. It’s important to feed and water your favourite author.

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3. In The Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride

In The Cold Dark Ground is a favourite from early (like the first days of January) 2016. Logan McRae’s latest outing is such a great novel – it draws so much of the drama from the last arc to a close and opens new doors for McRae to walk through. Not that I’m saying he’ll manage, most likely he will find himself locked in a cargo container being shipped to the other side of the world, while trying to keep a beautiful woman from bleeding to death and realising that all the crates are filled with venemous snakes that just want to be close to him. Or he’ll eat one of his victims. You never know with Stuart MacBride. This is why I don’t write books. My ideas are shite, but I’m content with that because I let the experts, like MacBride, do the heavy lifting for me. Pick up this book. It is worth your time. I purchased it in hardcover and had to have lentil soup for the next two weeks to afford it.

 

Review:In the Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride

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In The Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride, Trade Paperback, January 2016, 528p.

4.5 stars.

Okay – I will attempt to get through this review without too much flailing, gushing and incoherent squealing. No promises, however. This book was much too good to promise the impossible.

In the Cold Dark Ground might just be the best Logan McRae novel published thus far. I’ve read all 9 in the past two years, and loved them all. The cases that McRae investigate are usually dark and twisted, which is right up my alley. This one was no different. There was a very satisfying who-dun-it with all the appropriate red herrings and twists.

That isn’t what made this book into a 4.5 star read – that would be the personal story lines that came to a head in this book. I will attempt to not spoil anything, but some major changes happen during In the Cold Dark Ground. Things that just made me drop the book on my lap and loudly exclaim “oh, my god.” There were also moments that made me a bit teary, and wonder how the hell Logan was going to get out of this mess that he finds himself in.

I really enjoy MacBride’s tongue in cheek exploration of corruption, and in this book, that is played to the extremes. There are some very memorable scenes with Napier (who sounds so much like my grandfather it is scary), and we get to meet some interesting characters who work in internal affairs.

This book was thoroughly enjoyable, but the last few pages truly had me squirming in my seat, wondering what the hell is going to happen in the next book. That is the sign of a really great series, where you read a complete story with a solid ending, but are already checking out the publication dates for the next book. (Couldn’t find a date, assume it’s not written yet. Might need to abduct Stuart MacBride and force him to write the next one now. Although, it would suck if my life became a B grade adaptation of Misery.)

 

Awesome January ’16 Releases

At the end of each month, I am going to share a couple (2-5) books that are due for release in the following month, and my current level of excitement for their publication. I like to talk about newly published books as much as the next person, but my real motivation is to discover new-to-me-authors and keep up to date with the growing list of series that I read! Anyway, onto the list!

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In The Cold Dark Ground – Stuart MacBride
Series: Logan McRae #10
Publication Date: January 14, 2016

Sergeant Logan McRae is in trouble…

His missing-persons investigation has just turned up a body in the woods – naked, hands tied behind its back, and a bin bag duct-taped over its head. The Major Investigation Team charges up from Aberdeen, under the beady eye of Logan’s ex-boss Detective Chief Inspector Steel. And, as usual, she wants him to do her job for her.

But it’s not going to be easy: a new Superintendent is on her way up from the Serious Organised Crime Task Force, hell-bent on making Logan’s life miserable; Professional Standards are gunning for Steel; and Wee Hamish Mowat, head of Aberdeen’s criminal underbelly, is dying – leaving rival gangs from all over the UK eying his territory.

There’s a war brewing and Logan’s trapped right in the middle, whether he likes it or not.

I’ve been following the McRae series for awhile now, and the anticipation for this book has me in knots! MacBride manages to balance dark and horrific plots with inappropriately hilarious humour in this series. The last book in the series ended with Logan in a very precarious position. I preordered a copy of this book in November (on Amazon) but then managed to get my hot little hands on a copy a couple of days ago. I’m now trying to ignore the holiday season so I can pretend I’m in gritty Aberdeen with Logan and Steel.

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Coffin Road – Peter May
Publication Date: January 14, 2016

A man is washed up on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris, barely alive and borderline hypothermic. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. The only clue to his identity is a map tracing a track called the Coffin Road. He does not know where it will lead him, but filled with dread, fear and uncertainty he knows he must follow it.

A detective crosses rough Atlantic seas to a remote rock twenty miles west of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. With a sense of foreboding he steps ashore where three lighthouse keepers disappeared more than a century before – a mystery that remains unsolved. But now there is a new mystery – a man found bludgeoned to death on that same rock, and DS George Gunn must find out who did it and why.

A teenage girl lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to discover the truth about her father’s death. Two years after the discovery of the pioneering scientist’s suicide note, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. And the more she discovers about the nature of his research, the more she suspects that others were behind his disappearance.

Coffin Road follows three perilous journeys towards one shocking truth – and the realisation that ignorance can kill us.

Considering how much crime/thriller fiction I read, it’s a bit of a worry I haven’t touched any of Peter May’s work. I’m not sure I’m ready to emotionally invest in his much acclaimed Lewis Trilogy – but Coffin Road is a standalone that is calling to me. I will be putting a hold on this one at the library and giving May a try!

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A Death in Sweden – Keven Wignall
Publication Date: January 1, 2016

Dan Hendricks is a man in need of a lifeline. A former CIA operative, he is now an agent for hire by foreign powers on the hunt for dangerous fugitives. It’s a lethal world at the best of times, and Dan knows his number is almost up. His next job could be his last—and his next job is his biggest yet.

The target sounds trackable enough: Jacques Fillon, who gave up his life trying to save a fellow passenger following a bus crash in northern Sweden. But the man was something of an enigma in this rural community, and his death exposes his greatest secret: Jacques Fillon never existed at all.

Dan is tasked with uncovering Fillon’s true identity—but can he do so before his own past catches up with him?

This is another standalone (so strange that I have listed two that I am excited for when I normally stick to series) that I am really looking forward to reading. It is currently generating quite a bit of buzz on the internets, as amazon seem to be really pushing the publicity. I’m not complaining, all that buzz has brought to my eye another book that I’m sure I will enjoy. I will most likely buy this one on kindle when I forget to take my book to work, and cannot stand the thought of a break without glorious words!

Weekly Review Spree 8/3/15

18660669Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead – 2 stars

I started off really enjoying Vampire Academy, and was really intrigued by the premise. However I started to feel like the novel was juvenile with emotional hooks that completely missed their intended target. I went from tolerating Rose (and possibly identifying with her) to finding her horrible, manipulative and petty. I don’t like the way teenagers are portrayed in this novel, they get no respect. If there was more character development and Rose went from being horrible, manipulative and petty to being less of the aforementioned traits I could have enjoyed it, but by the end of the book the only change was that I added selfish to the list. The characters seemed to think they were great people, and were always the victim, and while that mentality can be interesting to read about, Mead seemed completely oblivious to the way her characters come across. I feel like character progression will happen in future novels, but I’m not willing to read them to find out. I’m starting to realise that most of the YA I enjoy is of the bildungsroman variety and not just a way for teenagers to get their M rated sex scenes with the stereotypical ‘tall, dark and handsome.’

16059717Close to the Bone – Stuart MacBride – 4 stars (also could win an award for favourite cover – look at the spooky pretty!)

Close to the Bone would have to be my favourite Logan McCrae novel I have read to date, mainly because it is more about the personal lives of the police officers than previous instalments. For the first time I hated Logan in this book, but I then felt so sorry for him a little later, so manipulative of my delicate emotions, Mr MacBride! The crime was interesting, and they discussed slash fanfiction, which made me chuckle and reminded me of my youth when I was obsessed with X-files fanfiction. I did miss Logan’s reporter friend and I felt like the situation with a certain someone was left unresolved, but hopefully that will be reconciled in the next novel? Also, I cried like a baby at the conclusion of this novel,  not something I do with every crime novel I read.

16183104Partners in Crime (two short stories) – Stuart MacBride- 3 stars

As I have been reading the Logan McRae series I was excited to find this collection of two short stories available for kindle. I didn’t like either of these stories as much as I enjoyed the previous short story I read, The 45% Hangover, but they were interesting and funny. If you have half an hour spare, and are already a fan of the series, then they are worth your time, but they wouldn’t make a good introduction into this world.

 

19065866Red Stripes (short story)- Matt Hilton – 3 stars

Yet another short story, this one was a Joe Hunter yarn. It wasn’t thick with plot or characters but it was packed with action. Oh! So much action! I really do enjoy Joe Hunter stories and was very relieved when Mr Hilton announced on his blog that the next Joe Hunter novel will be out mid this year, now I just have to wait, and while I am waiting, I will read his collection of other Hunter short stories.

Other Bookish Stuff

I didn’t make it to Geoffrey McGeachin’s event that happened during Adelaide Writer’s Week, which makes me a little sad – but I wasn’t feeling well enough to go, and I’m trying hard to not push myself physically.

Exciting news for this week is that C.J. Box’s new novel, Endangered, is out on the 10th, I’ve preordered it on kindle (thanks for kindle vouchers, lovely family), and can’t wait to read it!

I’m currently reading Fire Force, which is book 2 in the ‘Death Force’ series, and am loving it so far. The only problem is it seems to be a completed series with only 3 or 4 books, and I know I’m going to want more.

Ranty Roundup – February

Well February seemed to fly by.  I had a really good reading month, but a not so good blogging month – but I’ll just smile and be happy that the reading slump is not only over, it has been decimated! I read 11 books in Feb, which is probably a record for me, especially considering I didn’t read for a whole week while I was away. My favourite book was certainly The Call of the Wild by Jack London – I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. An honourable mention must go to Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae series – I’ve read six of his novels over the past two months, and they are some of the longest mysteries I’ve encountered, but I’m in love – with Roberta Steel.

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Onto personal matters, I’ve been having issues with my right eye (I’ve been unable to watch TV or be on the computer for more than an hour at a time) and the many doctors I’ve been seeing have no idea what is wrong. They have just said I have to deal with the discomfort and pain and hope that my vision doesn’t get any worse – I’m already at the point that the right eye is useless, the left eye does all the work. That has put a dampener on my life, but certainly meant I got lots of reading done!

Uni goes back during March, and I’m finally getting to see the light – one more year of study and then I can look forward to full time teaching. However, it also means that I am going to have less time to read this month – I’ve got a good buffer on my Goodreads goal of 52 books in 2015, so I’m not going to pressure myself to read too much. However, as I can’t watch TV, most of my spare time will be spent with a book. I’ve also gone back to working nights, which gives me about two hours of reading time each night, so I’m hoping to read 6 books during March.

 

Total Books Read in February – 11 books

The Forsaken – Ace Atkins – 4 stars

Flesh House – Stuart MacBride – 3 stars

Blackwattle Creek – Geoffrey McGeachin – 3 stars

The Call of the Wild – Jack London – 5 stars

San Francisco Night – Stephen Leather – 3 stars

Rules of Honour – Matt Hilton – 4 stars

Blind Eye – Stuart MacBride – 3 stars

The Lawless Kind – Matt Hilton – 3 stars

Dark Blood – Stuart MacBride – 3 stars

Shatter The Bones – Stuart MacBride – 4 stars

Death Force – Matt Lynn – 4 stars

 

Continuing Reads

Sandakan – Paul Ham – 250p in

 

March TBR (more a suggestions list besides the top three)

Finish Sandakan – Paul Ham

Fire Force – Matt Lynn

Shadow Force – Matt Lynn

Start Vampire Academy series

Start Sniper Elite series

 

Bloggy Stuff

Well, I’ve decided to set myself a couple of goals to do with the blog and share them. I’ve got some excellent opportunities this month, for starters I am going to go see Geoffrey McGeachin’s talk on Thursday at Adelaide Writer’s Week, so I will hopefully give a recap of what that experience is like – I’ve reviewed all of his Charlie Berlin series on this blog and they have certainly become a favourite of mine.

I am also going to make it a habit to do mini reviews – I’ve been thinking that I need to write massive reviews of every book I read, and then scaring myself from actually doing the review (do I actually have enough to say about this?) so instead I’m going to aim at once a week having a feature where I review the book(s) I’ve read – in 100 words. If I find I have more than 100 words, I can publish it as a standalone, otherwise, it will go in my weekly wrap up.

Finally, I am thinking of tackling Ulysses during the next Bout of Books – would anyone out there be interested in doing this with me? (please!?) Or even just offer advice (besides the advice my sister gave me: Run away! Run, run FAR AWAY!) of the best way to tackle this?

So hopefully there is more happening on this blog this month, and hopefully I don’t break down and cry when all my uni work starts rolling in! For all those who stuck it out to this conclusion – you deserve cookies (but I can’t bake, so what you deserve and what you get are two different things).

 

Book Review: Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride

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Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride, 2007, paperback from library, 594p

 

In the past couple of months I have experienced a profound reading slump, and the Logan McRae series can get all the credit in pulling me out of it. I’ve been immersed in a thrilling and strange world, (all this talk of sleet and cold confuses Aussies, you know?) and I have slowly been making my way through the first couple of novels in the series – Cold Granite and Dying Light. I purchased Cold Granite because it was on sale on ibooks for $0. Such a good/bad promotion, because I then brought Dying Light full price on ibooks – the first time I ever spent money on that platform.

McRae is a wonderful character, and he is surrounded by an interesting and diverse cast who never disappoint in delivering a witty one liner or putting foot to mouth in front of their superiors. I like that there was a lot of background introduced during Cold Granite, it wasn’t as if the character simply ‘started’ with the first book – he had exes, issues with bosses and favourite drinking holes.

My primary issue with these books is that they deal with a darker content then I am used to – rape and murder primarily. I love reading the novels, but then need to focus on something a little fluffier in between. And you know that the book is dark when you consider average murder mysteries and thrillers to be fluff. With MacBride’s books you also get your monies worth, most of these books are in excess of 500p – and packed full of action, not simply McRae figuring things out in his head, often a lot of the ‘detective work’ occurs by other policemen and women, and McRae is there, and they work in a team. I like that. It is very different to the lone wolf hero that seems to be prevalent in many of the books I read.

This review is technically about the third novel – Broken Skin. I really enjoyed this book, found it interesting and enjoyed the case as well as the personal lives of the characters. Also, it discussed a few things I have a little bit of a history with – and it treated those topics with respect. The humour was still there, and I like Logan a little more each book I read.

I find the writing to be very easy to follow – certainly no purple prose here. Some people might be turned off by this, but personally, it helps me to immerse into the world, when there is a simple approach taken to storytelling.

I’ll certainly read the rest of the series, and hopefully catch up at some time this year.