The third in Stuart MacBride's excellent series of darkly violent crime novels finds Police Constable Jackie Watson, Detective Sergeant Logan McRae's girlfriend, acting as bait for a serial rapist who has been stalking the streets of Aberdeen. Their encounter, when it occurs, is only ever likely to end one way: and the police take into custody an injured Rob Macintyre, Aberdeen Football Club's star striker, a man with a huge following across the city and, unfortunately, firm alibis for the times of the previous attacks. Things get worse when a better suspect is identified for one of the rapes, and the footballer's lawyer succeeds in getting him released.
Meanwhile DS Logan McRae is investigating the death of a man whose grotesquely injured body was left outside the hospital's accident and emergency department. His investigations lead him deep into the seldom glimpsed world of Aberdeen's bondage community, its sex shops and its pornographers: or they would, if he was not having so much trouble catching an 8 year old boy who has murdered an elderly man during a robbery and nearly killed a policewoman who was pursuing him.
Stuart MacBride's growing band of enthusiastic readers will know by now that DS McRae is a man for whom multi-tasking is second nature. In "Broken Skin" he is not only juggling a large and chaotic caseload, he is also having to do so while managing two highly dysfunctional superior officers, Detective Inspector Steele and Detective Inspector Insch, who spend much of their time at one another's throats while he fulfils the role of a ping pong ball being batted back and forth between them.
Tensions mount as more rapes, each of increasing violence, follow the release of the footballer: and while DS MacRae begins to think someone else must be responsible, PC Watson, and others in the force, are utterly convinced they have identified the right man. As ever with Stuart MacBride, the strands are drawn together in a highly effective and satisfying way, and the result is an outstanding read.