Thursday, June 26, 2014

Broken Skin - Stuart Macbride

In Stuart Macbride's 'Broken Skin', DS Logan McRae  gets thrashed by a young kid on one occasion. While the image of a grown up eating humble pie at the hands of a kid is funny, it is tempered by the fact that the kid in question has seriously injured another person while attempting a theft. What causes a kid who was well behaved a few months ago, to go on this violent streak? Throughout the DS Logan series , Macrbide keeps doing this macabre dance between being ferociously funny and brutally violent.

Life is as usual for Logan (i.e.) multiple cases to solve, being bullied by Roberta Steel and Insch, trying to slope of work and the bullying. But he has the knack of being involved in anything and everything he tries to avoid. In addition to searching for the delinquent kid, he has to track a serial rapist and a suspicious death which seems related to the S&M industry.

Careful plotting , red herrings and a twist based on something mentioned earlier on in the novel, these are not the strong points of this series. Macbride sets up the various cases/threads of the novel and set Logan running off on his own. The resolution of the novels are a bit too fast, towards the end each case gets solved one by one with a twist that doesn't seem sudden or shocking but as a kind of halfhearted cop-out done just so the novel could end. This could indeed a problem with Macbride's books which run to over 400 pages and in some cases over 500. After reading nearly 3/4ths of these novels, one could feel shortchanged about the ending, which can have an adverse impact on your reading the other works in the series.

All these are overcome by the strengths of the series, which is mainly propelled by the sheer narrative force, the dialogues and the quirky characters.  'Roberta Steel' is still such an engaging character, Insch is true to form, Rennie is suitably slovenly and Richards is a good addition to this weird and funny bunch. As usual Logan hovers on the borderline of being wimpy and reluctant hero. And the dialogues, Macbride just creams this part, the series is worth reading just for them. Beware though, Macbride is not just about dark humor, he can and does dark things to his characters which one cannot just imagine. So you never feel safe with even the main characters of the series because, you never know or rather you know that they can be subjected to unexpected disasters. It is never gratuitous, just Macbride's way of telling us that crap happens and it happens often and at the most unexpected times. This is a compelling series not to be missed if you have the stomach for it.

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