The fifth book in Stuart MacBride's superb series of dark crime novels starring Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae is a worthy addition which, if anything, surpasses the already very high standards of writing and storytelling MacBride's readers have come to expect from him.
Someone is terrorising Aberdeen's growing Polish community: abducting men and gouging out their eyes and burning the sockets before abandoning them, barely alive, on building sites. A series of notes, apparently from the perpetrator, seem to suggest that the attacks are racially and religiously motivated hate crimes, but that doesn't really explain why the victims and their community are so reluctant to speak out when the police ask questions. And things become still more complex when the only witness turns out to be a highly active paedophile who needs protecting because of what he has seen.
MacBride's readers will be used to being immersed in an Aberdeen that is very different from the one shown in the tourist literature, or, for that matter, on Undiscovered Scotland. MacRae's investigations take him much further afield this time, and the grimly violent underside we are shown of parts of Poland actually succeeds in making MacBride's Aberdeen seem a highly benign place to live and work in comparison. As the strands come together we are treated to a series of unpredictable yet convincing twists and turns, and the sort of cinematically violent climax we have grown to expect from Stuart MacBride.
One of the real joys of the D.S. MacRae series is the marvellous cast of supporting characters. His immediate boss, Detective Inspector Steel, has grown steadily over a number of books and must now be considered to be a major literary creation in her own right. We've grown to know, if not necessarily to love, D.I. Steel as a foul mouthed chain smoking relic of a world before the police service discovered political correctness. This latest book presents a slightly more human side, as she tries to pressure MacRae into donating sperm to allow her wife to become pregnant.