A new Logan McRae novel by Stuart MacBride is something to look forward to, and, once it arrives, to be relished. "All That’s Dead" by Stuart MacBride is the twelfth in his series of novels about Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire cop, Inspector Logan McRae, and it certainly doesn't disappoint. Stuart MacBride books are not so much "Tartan Noir" as "Tartan Ultra-Noir" and "All That’s Dead" is as darkly entertaining as they come.
We join Logan on his first day back in Professional Standards after a year off work after being stabbed. He's hoping for a simple case to ease him back into the swing of things but is presented with anything but. The high-profile anti-independence campaigner, Professor Wilson, has gone missing, leaving nothing but bloodstains behind. Then his hands turn up, though not attached to him. The cop charged with investigating the professor's disappearance has problems of his own, and Logan, initially charged with investigating the investigating officer, is asked to step in and help out. Things quickly go from bad to worse, and the whole thing is playing out in the merciless glare of the media. Logan’s superiors want results, and they want them now. Someone out there is trying to make a point, and they’re making it a particularly gory way. If Logan can’t stop them, it won’t just be his career that dies.
There are many things that make Stuart MacBride's crime novels stand out from the crowd. Perhaps the most striking is the incredible cast of characters he assembles. Even bit-part players tend to have a back-story, but he really goes to town with Logan's colleagues who are, individually and collectively, perhaps the most dysfunctional Scottish cops we've seen portrayed since "Scot Squad". That's a reference that will probably elude non-Scottish readers: just think "Keystone Cops" brought up to date and set in Scotland. To be fair to Stuart MacBride, though, he has been working this particular seam of near-caricature for a long time now and it really does work. We sincerely hope that the real Police Scotland isn't half as shambolic as he depicts, but there is a sense in which the sheer weirdness of some of his central characters (with the notable exception of Logan himself) helps offset the darkness of his themes.
In summary, if you are a Stuart MacBride fan you'll love this book. If you've not come across him before, then simply be prepared to suspend your disbelief and go along for a thoroughly enjoyable ride.