Wednesday, 14 March 2018
In the Cold Dark Ground, by Stuart MacBride
Logan Balmoral MacRae is back, and about time, too, I say! In the tried and true genre of Crime fiction – you know; burnt-out detectives with shattered private lives but an uncanny knack for solving the most difficult crimes – well, Burn-Out Logan makes his recent experience of demotion to Police Sergeant in a small but dreary town in North East Scotland entirely credible. Yes, he – and his team of fellow reprobate law-enforcers - all suffer from varying degrees of exhaustion and burn-out, but policing anywhere is a tough job: someone has to do it and they’ve put their hands up. More fools them.
Not much has changed since Logan’s last appearance in ‘The Missing and the Dead’ except to worsen: his beloved girlfriend Samantha has been in a coma for five years (truly!). She will never wake and he has been told by hospital staff that it is time to say goodbye, a situation he has been dreading and shying away from even though his rational mind knows it is inevitable. Another death is imminent: wee Hamish Mowat, crime boss supreme of Aberdeen is in the terminal stages of cancer. In a last conversation with Logan, wee Hamish informs him that he wishes Logan to take control of his empire for he knows that upon his death all the other crime lords from near and far will be circling like vultures, ready to break up his ‘life’s work’: he is convinced that Logan (despite the fact that he is a Police Officer – how I wish I’d read all those earlier books!) will be the only one strong enough to hold it all together. All this under the homicidally jealous eye of Reuben, the Reubenator, wee Hamish’s wing man who has the intimidatory strength to keep things going – but not the brains. Reuben hates Logan, and Logan knows it is only a matter of time before the Reubenator mounts an attack.
He is almost relieved when a conventional murder rears its ugly head: a man’s naked body is found in the woods, hands bound behind his back and a rubbish bag taped over his head. Despite the classic imitation of a local gangland-style killing, Logan is not convinced that the Bad Guys actually did this – for once, they are innocent – of this crime, anyway, and when the Major Investigation Team from Aberdeen (still run by his old boss and friend – and proud lesbian – DCI Steel) mounts an investigation, his suspicions prove to be correct.
Sadly, Logan’s week from Hell doesn’t end there: he is also asked by the Police Internal Professional Standards division to covertly investigate DCI Steel: there is suspicion that she manufactured evidence to send a sexual predator and rapist to jail. As much as everyone abhors his crimes (for which he was never convicted) Scottish justice has to be SEEN to be done: who better to investigate Roberta Steel, than her trusted friend and confidante, the turkey-baster father of her children, Logan Balmoral MacRae. Yes, let’s add betrayal to the list of Logan’s Lousy Week.
Last but not least, a new Superintendent from the Serious Organised Crime Task Force is visiting and seems have taken an inexplicable and irrational dislike to him, thus making his life doubly miserable. Could anything else go wrong? Well, of course it can and it does, at a breakneck pace that this reader could barely stand – I wanted to yell ‘Slow down, slow down!!’ – and all because I didn’t want this mighty episode in the hapless (but not entirely hopeless) life and times of Logan to end. Stuart MacBride is a storyteller Extraordinaire, a superb wordsmith who is in the enviable position of being unable to write fast enough to supply his readers’ demands.