It is Detective Sergeant Logan McRae's first day back at work after a year off recovering from serious stab wounds: so serious he rapidly becomes known by his colleagues on his return as "Lazarus". He's not had much time to settle in, and our first meeting with McRae is not an auspicious one: at night, in pouring winter rain, in a scene of crime tent erected over the mutilated and badly decomposed body of a young boy. Things could hardly get worse: until they do, with the arrival of the pathologist, Dr Isobel MacAlister, McRae's distinctly ex-girlfriend. It soon becomes clear that there is a serial killer at large in Aberdeen, and as young children disappear and bodies are found the pressure on the police to find the killer increases steadily. And things are not helped by the storm of suspiciously well-informed media interest in the murders.
Stuart MacBride's "Cold Granite" was first published in 2005 and was the first of the author's series of novels about tough Aberdeen cop DS Logan McRae. Its reappearance in this reissued edition will be welcomed by the growing number of fans of DS McRae who have only made his acquaintance via more recent books in the series: such as the seventh, Shatter the Bones, published at the beginning of 2011. It's interesting to look back at the first of any long running series of novels, and in this case it is a pleasure to find a book that is every bit as readable, enjoyable and gripping as you'd want and expect from the finest crime writing.
The plot, or perhaps that should be plots, of "Cold Granite" move along at a cracking pace. The "back story" helps establish McRae as a real and believable character and we follow him with a growing sense of attachment as he seeks to unravel the increasingly complex story behind the disappearances and bodies. Supporting characters like Detective Inspector Insch and WPC Watson are equally credible and engaging. Perhaps the most important supporting character is Aberdeen itself. Usually portrayed as the granite or grey city, McRae's wintry Aberdeen seems a place of perpetual night and of equally perpetual rain, as if bidding to become the setting for a remake of "Blade Runner". Until it starts to snow, which it continues to do with enthusiasm for much of the second half of the book. Stuart MacBride has successfully done for Aberdeen what Ian Rankin has for so long done for Edinburgh: given it a character that provides a perfect setting for his fiction.