MacBride, Stuart - 'Blind Eye'
The fifth and latest instalment in MacBride's acclaimed DS Logan McRae series takes us once more into the dark heart of Aberdeen, although this time we're looking through the sticky lens of a sweltering summer, rather than the rain-smashed freezing winters of previous books. And while the cannibalistic serial killer of FLESH HOUSE is thankfully several months in the rear-view mirror, McRae and the rest of his Grampian police colleagues are still struggling with the after-effects. And then they're faced with something perhaps even more gruesome.
The city's growing Polish community is under attack from a serial offender who leaves behind horrifically mutilated victims. Not dead, but perhaps wishing they were - their eyes have been gouged out and the sockets burned. With the victims both scarred and scared - too scared to talk, McRae has an investigation going nowhere. Then things get even worse; well-known bookie Simon McLeod becomes the latest victim, and McRae is swept up into the world of Aberdeen's most legendary and vicious crime lord. A world of drug wars, hardcore porn, prostitution rings and gun-running. As if that wasn't enough, McRae must also fend off the maternal needs of DI Steel, his hard-living lesbian boss.
While MacBride's grisly tales may be too brutal for fans of classic Agatha Christie-style "cosy" mysteries, his crime writing is high quality, and well worth a read by those not worried about weak stomachs. Fans of Mark Billingham or Paul Cleave will love MacBride's mixture of dark crime and dark humour.
BLIND EYE is packed with ferocious action, an engrossing storyline, and crackling dialogue. One of the most enjoyable aspects is the realistic portrayal of group dynamics - the interactions between McRae and his police colleagues are full of colourful language, piss-taking and shared histories. Many authors avoid such an authentic view, full of the crassness and occasional vulgarity of some people's everyday lives, instead providing readers with a sanitised or airbrushed picture. MacBride realistically portrays the way police-work is made up of multiple cases pulling investigators in various directions, even when there is a single high-profile or important case the media is mainly focused on.
MacBride also brings an enjoyable sense of authenticity to his characters and settings, which in BLIND EYE include a side-trip to cobblestoned streets and communist tenements of Krakow, Poland. Readers who have travelled to the former Royal Capital will find the detour full of telling details they recognise, from the brilliant blue and yellow ceilings of St Mary's Basilica to the fact that parishioners are gated off from tourists.
One quibble: I missed the presence of some former favourites in terms of McRae's supporting cast. Hopefully some will return in later books. In the end though, those who can stomach the violence, and aren't offended by such realistic interactions and language, will greatly enjoy BLIND EYE. I for one, eagerly await the next instalment in a solid series.
Craig Sisterson, New Zealand
Craig Sisterson is a New Zealand-based writer and reviewer. He also blogs on crime and thriller fiction at kiwicrime.blogspot.com.