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Bookends: Crime and Punishment are hard to connect in Aberdeen June 4, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Crime and Punishment are hard to connect in Aberdeen

By Dan Davidson

Broken Skin

January 23, 2013


Broken Skin

By Stuart McBride


568 pages



Broken Skin is the third book in Logan McRae series. It’s my introduction to the work of a homicide division in Aberdeen, Scotland, and so I can honestly say that a reader can dip into it and figure out all the characters without having read the first two. Number one was Cold Granite, by the way, so named because Aberdeen is called the Granite City, and is the Oil Capital of Europe.

I’d have to say that I didn’t get much of a sense of the place from reading this book. Rankin sold me on Edinburgh, but it may have helped that I’d been there when I read my first Rebus mystery. Our UK tour a few years back took us to a number of places at the same latitude as Aberdeen, but not to that city.

While the boys and girls at Grampian Police Force HQ do eventually get the job done, I’m not entirely certain I’d want most of them investigating anything for me. They’re an odd bunch, and Logan seems to be the one among them who has his head mostly screwed on straight. Even he is hung over after far too many late nights at bars with the rest of his work mates.

The first person we meet by name is PC Jackie Wilson, Logan’s live-in partner. She’s in the act of taking down a rapist, but since Rob McIntyre is a major football star on the local scene, that case turns out to be a lot more difficult to pin down than it seems like it should.  While we are pretty sure that he is the bad guy from the time we meet him, it’s a puzzle as to how he’s managing to get away with it.

The next case to join the lineup is the apparent death by misadventure of a BDSM fan who has had something way too large inserted way too far. Fortunately one of the officers at Grampian is a devotee of the lifestyle and recognizes the rising male porn star whose body they have found. Of course, getting called “Spanky” for the rest of the book rather makes PC Rickards wish he had kept his mouth shut.

During the next three weeks – the break between pages 102 and 103, we have to assume that things were not going well for the team, but when we rejoin the story, it gets worse. Within a few pages both Logan and an unnamed policewoman are taken down by an eight-year-old boy who has just killed an old man who had tried to stop him from snatching a woman’s purse. We will spend quite a bit of the book trying to find Sean Morrison and puzzling out what might possibly have turned him into such a holy terror. Naturally, his parents say he’s a sweet kid.

Naturally, Logan’s superiors could care less about what made the boy (who formerly was a sweet kid) go bad, but Logan cares. And it’s Logan who figures out just how to tag McIntyre too. The third crime – well, that gets wrapped up as well, but the outcome is much less desirable.

Logan seems to be in the midst of a mad bunch of characters. His immediate boss, DI Steel, is a gruff lesbian who seems to be more concerned with her crime stats than with actually understanding the cases. For part of the book he’s seconded to work with DI Insch, a short-tempered fat man with an apparently bottomless appetite for candies and sweets of all sorts. Insch is a rush-to-judgment kind of fellow who seems to get tunnel vision while working cases.

On the other hand, he’s no less obsessed with McIntyre than is Logan’s roommate, Jackie, who probably put the football star in the hospital, unconscious and with a impressive catalogue of bruises and fractures. Hell hath no fury like a lady copper who knows she is right but can’t quite prove it and is determined that no more young women will be defaced.

On the whole, I’d have to say that I enjoyed this book, but it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea (lots of that in the book, too). It’s a rough read full of nasty bits and some fairly brutal people, leavened by some fairly coarse humour. Oh, and you’ll need to keep your handheld within reach so you can run searches on some of the impenetrable Scottish slang. Most of it has to do with food, but I found I had to look up half a dozen words as I was reading, and that’s not something I usually need to do.





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