Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cold Granite by Stewart McBride

Author: Stewart McBride
ISBN # 0007193149
Publisher: Harper Collins
First Published: 2005
581 pages

The Blurb:
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. There's a killer stalking the Granite City and the local media are baying for blood. If that wasn't enough, Logan also has to contend with a new boss, DI Insch, who doesn't suffer fools gladly and thinks everyone's a fool, and his own ex-girlfriend, the beautiful but chilly Isobel MacAlister, who also happens to be the chief pathologist. The only good news is WPC 'Ball Breaker' Watson, Logan's new guardian angel. 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. If Logan isn't careful, he's going to end up joining them. Set in Aberdeen, where the rainy season lasts all year, criminal gangs vie for supremacy on the streets and the oil industry brings an influx of wealth and vice, this is a gritty, powerful and page-turning debut thriller by a writer with a wonderfully observant eye and a characteristically Scottish sense of gallows humour.

I’ll admit I was already looking forward to reading this long before I picked it up as the Posh Club monthly reading choice, as not only had one of my colleagues recently read and recommended it to me, but it’s set in Aberdeen – the city I live in and love. The descriptions of the city initially seem very negative, with the grey buildings and perpetual rain sounding incredibly depressing, but then again, the story is set during the run-up to Christmas when it is particularly dark and dreary. Everything felt comfortably familiar – the streets were all known to me, the pub where the coppers drink after work is one where my sister used to work and the main character appears to live in my old flat – yet the crimes committed throughout the story were disturbing and the tension is kept high throughout the proceedings.

There were one or two red-herrings that I thought were fairly obvious, but then I subscribe to the “if there’s a gun on the wall in act one, someone has to fire it by the closing scene” school of thought and I found I could easily pick out the moments that were going to smack the inspector in the face later on. However, for once I didn’t completely solve the case myself, which made a refreshing change (yes, I love getting to feel clever when I work everything out, but I can’t help feeling like they often make it all too easy and dumb-down a lot lately).

The only thing that was blatantly missing from this novel was the seagulls – Aberdeen is overrun by mobs of oversized seagulls that dive-bomb you for you chips on the way home from the chipper on the corner (or, sometimes, just because they feel like it!) and they were never once mentioned, whereas anyone who lives in Aberdeen will tell you that dodging the gulls and avoiding the oily, stinking splat of bird poo is part and parcel of living in this fair and shining city.

As a debut novel, Stewart McBride has done incredibly well with Cold Granite – the plot and characters are engaging, and the wry Scottish sense of humour is evident throughout the tautly-written prose. I shall certainly be getting hold of his second novel to see how it measures up against his first.

Rating: 9


Blogger Michelle said...

That's odd.. I've read the first few chapters, and I'm sure I've just read about seagulls....!?

8:50 am  
Blogger The Book Fiend said...

I should perhaps have been a bit more clear about that - the seagulls here are over-sized and actively attack people here, dive-bombing them and stealing food, sh*tting on them and, in some cases, pecking at them. THat was what was missing, not the actual presence (their presence was mentioned, but nobody got attacked by them - honestly, it's like living in a Hitchcock film around here sometimes!).

9:01 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home