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A Dark So Deadly


A Dark So Deadly

Stuart MacBride doesn’t write novels. Not exactly. I think the art form he creates would be described more accurately as a “film between covers,” if you will. He paints on a canvas that is broad, long and deep --- full of grit, grime and gore --- where the best characters keep moving against seemingly insurmountable odds toward an unpalatable fate, the only reason being that staying in place or retreating would result in something far, far worse. Everything seems to move. One could create a film version from MacBride’s bitter prose --- everything one would need is right there --- but what could one add? What would be the point? I read what I just wrote and it still doesn’t quite cover what true talent this man possesses. Seriously.

Let’s put it another way. MacBride can transport you from wherever you happen to be sitting or standing as you read his latest book and take you right to the heart of his tale --- the dirty street, the cracked sidewalk, the dilapidated house in the decaying city --- within a page or two.

"[A DARK SO DEADLY] has everything you want: a compelling mystery, memorable characters, an exotic setting, and some hilariously dark humor, just to relieve the almost unrelenting grimness of the subject matter."

Does any of that draw you in? I hope so, because I would strongly urge you to stop whatever you are doing (even if you are reading this) and pick up A DARK SO DEADLY, MacBride’s latest work. Those who have been tempted to explore his darkly pitted Logan McRae police procedural novels but have hesitated due to the number and length of the volumes should note that this book is either 1) a stand-alone title (which is how it is being marketed), or 2) the likely opening installment of a new series. Either way, it is a perfect jump-on point for all things MacBride. And how amazing those things are.

A DARK SO DEADLY introduces the literary world to Callum MacGregor on his first day with something called the Misfit Mob. Scotland Yard it isn’t; rather, it is an aggregation composed of police officers who have fallen from grace with the higher-ups in Police Scotland. The officers cannot be fired, but every effort is made to give them the worst cases possible, the ones that are either dead-end or worthless yet still must be investigated. MacGregor, whose pitch is Edinburgh, is having a gawd-awful first day of duty with his new assignment, between a foot chase that ends badly but successfully and a cheerfully abusive sergeant who doesn’t want to be with MacGregor any more than MacGregor wants to be with him. All of this is told in a vignette full of violence and, yes, occasionally funny black humor before MacGregor finds himself assigned to an actual murder.

Oh, before we get to that, we learn a bit about MacGregor’s personal life, which is absolutely miserable. What is hinted at, though, is that whatever the man’s sins might be --- and we only learn them through piecemeal breadcrumbs scattered throughout the narrative --- he is a stand-up guy, at least in some parts of his life. As to that murder: a corpse of some age --- a mummy, really --- has been found at a local dump, and MacGregor is tasked with discovering what museum belongs to it. It’s an unusual assignment, even for a member of the Misfit Mob, and becomes more so when he manages to connect the mummy dumping with several recent disappearances in the Edinburgh area.

What we gradually learn is that there is a serial killer who enjoys toying with his victims and is in no particular hurry to administer the coup de grâce. It’s a new variant of a familiar ticking clock, made more so by MacGregor’s circumstances, as well as a bunch of antagonists who attack the seemingly indefatigable MacGregor with gusto. And then it gets personal. MacGregor seems as if he is almost too good a character for a one-off book and should come back for another turn...if he can make it to the end of this one.

A DARK SO DEADLY is one of those remarkable books that is of some length --- over 600 pages --- yet reads very quickly and leaves the reader wishing it was longer still. It has everything you want: a compelling mystery, memorable characters, an exotic setting, and some hilariously dark humor, just to relieve the almost unrelenting grimness of the subject matter. Don’t miss this one.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 16, 2017

A Dark So Deadly
by Stuart MacBride

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0007494688
  • ISBN-13: 9780007494682