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by Stuart MacBride
HarperCollins, April 2010
469 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007244606

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

What a joy it is to read another of Stuart MacBride's crime fictions. This author produces a wonderful brand of humour, reeking, as it does, of the nether world (for all that Aberdeen is so far north of here) rather than of heavenly notes, but written tellingly of tremendously believable characters and all too probable crimes.

DS Logan McRae and DI Steel are preparing themselves to watch sex offender (he rapes old men) and criminal accountant Richard Knox. Mind, DI Steel could be forgiven for perhaps not concentrating completely on the job, as her wife, Susan, is pregnant (courtesy of Logan's sperm). Nonetheless, she is prepared to take an interest in the well-being of the Novocastrian. Knox has asked to return to Aberdeen to live in the house formerly belonging to his grandparents, having served out his gaol sentence, but not wishing to live in Newcastle. Apart from needing to be protected from outraged citizenry, a watch on Knox could prove beneficial, because he knows where his former associate hid his money. But would the task of watching Knox be too difficult, when the sex offender continually proclaims that he has found god? And will DSI Danby be able to protect elderly males from Knox's amorous advances?

Meanwhile, counterfeit goods (including cash) are proliferating in Aberdeen and making themselves a nuisance for the local constabulary.

DI Steel takes it upon herself, in an attempt to help (although to Logan, it sounds more like victimisation) to tell Logan what is being said about his work ethic and his lack of team spirit. No more is Lazarus the flavour of the month. At first he tends to disregard the criticism but gradually recognises some validity to it and even attempts some minor reforms.

To make Logan feel even worse, despite his being an honest copper, he finds himself in possession of an envelope filled with cash, donated by one of Aberdeen's finest crooks.

MacBride's characterisation is beautifully done. One can empathise with Logan's helplessness and inability to see his way forward, despite his considerable accomplishments. All of the characters, goodies and baddies alike, are well drawn and convincing. The small details of everyday police work, as attributed to the Aberdeen police, are also credible and the way the police go about their work, in less than salubrious surroundings, is admirable. They are, after all, only human.

A year is rather a long time for the reader to have to wait for the further exploits of DS McRae et al, especially given that a normal gestation (with regard DI Steel's wife) is only nine months but who knows what the next installment will bring?

Denise Pickles has been reviewing for RTE for many years. She lives in Australia.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, June 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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