Cold Granite

cold granite

Cold Granite
by Stuart MacBride

DS Logan McRae and the police in Aberdeen hunt a child killer who stalks the frozen streets. Winter in Aberdeen: murder, mayhem and terrible weather!

It’s DS Logan McRae’s first day back on the job after a year off on the sick, and it couldn’t get much worse. Four-year-old David Reid’s body is discovered in a ditch, strangled, mutilated and a long time dead. And he’s only the first. There’s a serial killer stalking the Granite City and the local media are baying for blood.

Soon the dead are piling up in the morgue almost as fast as the snow on the streets, and Logan knows time is running out. More children are going missing. More are going to die. And if Logan isn’t careful, he could end up joining them!

After reading Song for The Dying by Stuart MacBride last year and really enjoying it, I decided I would like to read some more by this author. Not having read any of his Logan McRae series it seemed prudent to start at the beginning. I was prepared for it to be a little unpolished, being the first book, but in actual fact it is very accomplished.

Logan McRae has just returned to work after an attack that almost cost him his life and also earns him the nickname Laz (Lazarus). McRae is a little different from most other detectives in that he is not a manic- depressive or alcoholic and that’s a refreshing change. His first case back involves a serial killer, targeting children. This is a very tough subject to stomach, especially if you are a parent. But Stuart Macbride does not flinch away from tough subjects and his handling of it is extremely well done. While it is brutal it never feels gratuitous.

The pathologist on the case is Isobel MacAlister. She is McRae’s ex-girlfriend, and the history between them has not been completely resolved leaving working together a little awkward at times. But it gives an authenticity to new characters and a feeling of depth.

The other main character who shares star billing with McRae is D.I. Insch who is a fabulous character; ranting, worrying, snippets of black humour. My worry for him is that he will have a heart attack due to the constant diet of various sweets.

The Aberdeen weather plays almost as big a roll as any of the characters. The incessant rain, which only pauses to allow blizzards of hail, sleet and snow to sneak in. To say that Aberdeen is not presented as a tourist attraction is an understatement of the highest order.

Although the subject matter is undoubtedly dark, there is a black humour that runs through the book which probably reflects real life. I also loved the fact that it was actual police work that saw McRae through rather than the divine inspiration that sometimes suffices in other crime novels.

I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be making my way through the series Highly recommended.
****

Mule Train

mule train

Mule Train
by Huw Francis

Border Policeman Ishmael Khan has spent his life in the stunning mountains of the Hindu Kush, on the western edge of the Himalayas. His current mission is to find out what is happening to the foreign backpackers disappearing in the area.

Raseem Hasni dreams of wealth, status and proving to his father that he is a good businessman. In between smoking too much dope, Raseem’s business is running heroin out of Pakistan using foreign drug mules he intimidates into working for him.

Matt Peterson is depressed and in danger of being sacked. He’s read and re-read his dead fiancée’s favourite travel books and decides to resign his job and travel to the mountains of Pakistan, where they had planned to spend their honeymoon trekking.

Annie MacDonald is fed up and stuck in a dead-end job in London where she recently lost out on a promotion to someone with old-school connections. What better way to kick-start her life than resigning her job, taking the legacy left by her grandfather, and heading to his beloved Pakistan looking for adventure?

Four lives come together in the remote and spectacular mountains bordering Afghanistan and explode in a deadly cocktail of treachery, betrayal and violence.

Written with a deep love of Pakistan and the Pakistani people, Mule Train will sweep you from Karachi in the south to Chitral, Gilgit and the Shandur Pass in the north, through the dangerous borderland alongside Afghanistan, in an action packed adventure that will keep you gripped throughout.

This book starts off well enough. The descriptions of Pakistan, the bustling cities contrasting with the isolation of the mountainous regions, are extremely vivid. The idea for the plot is interesting and the device of following the four different characters and watching their lives converge and getting each of their viewpoints is also good.

Unfortunately, that’s where the positives end. Every single aspect of the plot is staged and co-incidence must be the author’s middle name. He does whatever he needs to do to move his plot forward and making it believable is not one of his considerations. Before I was halfway through I realised that mere suspension of disbelief was not going to help here. I carried on and finished the book but with my tongue firmly in my cheek.

How are we expected to believe that a man carrying drugs into a London airport, tells his story to the custom’s official, about a girl who was held captive along with him, that the said custom’s official would then up and leave his job and head to Pakistan to look for her? He doesn’t know her name, nor her location, bar that she is in Pakistan. Good luck with that one then! Luckily everyone within the Home Office seems ok with this and happily fund his trip.

I also have a problem with one of the characters, Ishmael Khan. I have no idea what this character’s purpose was. He is given huge prominence in the blurb and his viewpoint is shown throughout the book. But apart from one scene, he is totally uninvolved. You could skip his scenes and it wouldn’t detract one iota.

The dialogue at times is a little bit clunky to say the least. Matt finds himself at gunpoint and walked past a room where five men are manacled to a wall, the danger is palpable. When he manages to get away and someone tells him he must leave immediately because it is not safe, his reply, with no sense of irony at all, is; “so soon? I’ve only just arrived.” :-0

This book is extraordinary; it’s a strange combination of good writing (the descriptions of Pakistan), and ludicrous plot holes. I just wonder if the author might be better off just writing a plain travel book as this is where his talent lies.

If you don’t take the book too seriously you may well enjoy it, and it may be of use to young people off on their travels as a warning about potential drug problems.

I am giving Mule Train two stars mainly for the descriptions of place.
**

The Liar’s Chair

the Liar's Chair

The Liar’s Chair
by Rebecca Whitney

The truth could destroy her . . . A stunning psychological thriller debut set in Brighton
Rachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business . . . They have everything.
However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.
Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David’s darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it . . .
A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar’s Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney’s debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from . . .

I can’t remember reading a novel where there are so many unlikeable characters. I think the only one with any redeeming features is Will; and he is a drug-dealer! That’s how bad it is.

Rachel, the protagonist, is awful, even knowing that she is married to the biggest twonk ever doesn’t make you warm to her. She is needy, irresponsible and blames everybody except herself for all her ills.

Coming home from spending the night at her lover’s, she knocks down and kills a man. Knowing she is probably over the limit, she panics, drags the body into the woods and doesn’t report the accident. The only person she tells is her husband David, who is a controlling, manipulative man. This is just what he needs to control her even more. He sorts everything out with help from his contacts, leaves no trace and hopes to continue with their successful business and veneer of respectability as if nothing has happened. David’s character is very well written. He is cold, harsh and emotionless (except with his dogs).

Rachel is racked with guilt and cannot just let it go and so the two hurtle along pushing, pulling, poking and prodding at each other until they reach the point where something has to give. But who will be the winner?

The problem I have with this book is; there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for Rachel not to leave the relationship, and I use the word relationship very loosely. This is nothing more than a business arrangement, it was never built on love. She is strong enough to defy him time and again, so why not just leave him?

The start of the book was impressive and the ending was also good even if it left me with mixed feelings. I don’t mind that at all. The middle of the book, I felt kind of lost its way, maybe because it was being pushed along by this faux relationship. I put it down about halfway through and it took a good while for me to pick it back up again.

I am going to give the book 3 stars, Rebecca Whitney can certainly write and I would read another book by her, but it just felt forced at times.

Many thanks to the publishers, Mantle, for sending me a copy.
***

Police

JO NESBO POLICE

Police
by Jo Nesbo

The police urgently need Harry Hole

A killer is stalking Oslo’s streets. Police officers are being slain at the scenes of crimes they once investigated, but failed to solve. The murders are brutal, the media reaction hysterical.

But this time, Harry can’t help anyone

For years, detective Harry Hole has been at the centre of every major criminal investigation in Oslo. His dedication to his job and his brilliant insights have saved the lives of countless people. But now, with those he loves most facing terrible danger, Harry can’t protect anyone.

Least of all himself.

There is a serial killer on the streets of Oslo who is targeting police officers involved in previously unsolved murders. There is a man in a coma being guarded at the hospital and the new, self-serving, Chief of Police is extremely interested in him and what he may have to say. Harry Hole is retired, now lecturing. His expertise is desperately needed but he is very unwilling.

This book is dark, very dark…and scary.

There are lots of characters from previous books who have more space to breathe here as Harry is missing for the first third of the book. The other characters more than make up for his loss, they are so full-bodied that it’s sometimes hard to believe they are the supporting cast for Harry.

The ups and downs in this book are immense, the cliche roller coaster does not even begin to cover it. There are moment of joy and laughter (few and far between) but the moments of heartbreak are appalling.
It was so painful, so, so painful that he couldn’t breathe, so painful that he was doubled up, like a dying bee with its sting removed.

Nesbo delves deeply into the psyche of his characters, showing the human condition not only at its best but also at its most base. Even the good guys have a raw, brutal, almost animalistic side and there are times when it is positively uncomfortable and you feel you should really look away.

The complexity of the myriad plots is jaw-dropping, but Jo Nesbo handles these complexities with apparent ease. His touch moves through the book like a ballet dancer, gliding from scene to scene, character to character, plot to plot, effortlessly. 600+ pages and not one wasted. He is a master of his craft and this is his best book yet. It is unclear whether he will continue with Harry Hole but I for one hope that he does.
Outstanding.
*****