MacBride, Stuart - 'Shatter the Bones'
I like Stuart MacBride's books. I'm possibly a little biased towards them because they're set in my home town. But I like his writing anyway. He manages to combine a dark and gritty subject matter with a black humour that can be laugh out loud funny in places, and grimly ironic in others.
The plot here surrounds the kidnap of two contestants in the hit reality TV show Britain's Next Big Star. According to the ransom note, singing sensations Alison McGregor and her daughter Jenny will be released if enough money is raised by the deadline, else they will die. DS Logan McRae and his team have the seemingly impossible task of finding the pair before the deadline, with no clue who could be involved or even if it's just an elaborate publicity stunt by the TV company. Pretty soon some evidence arrives in the post that convinces them the threat is real though. And if that's not enough to deal with, McRae is accused of rape by a local prostitute and needs to find out just what's behind the accusation.
This is a very dark book, even by MacBride's pretty gloomy standard. It's not an easy read, but that's not a criticism. The grimness of this story is pretty unrelenting though. The characters are all well crafted and continue to develop through the series. DI Steel in particular is sheer genius. The plotting is sharp and well-handled. This book manages both to work on its own and to move the overall story arc of the series along nicely. I have to say that this is not the funniest of his books, but then there's not a lot happening that even MacBride can make a joke of. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, this one, and it's probably not everyone's cup of tea. However if you like your crime fiction strong and dark, with a touch of gallows humour, then it really doesn't get any better than this in my opinion.
Pat Austin, England