Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Serial Killers' Featured Review: Shatter the Bones by Stuart MacBride

Want to know more about the idea behind Serial Killers? This post is the place to start.

This month's book is Shatter the Bones the 7th book in the Logan McRae series by Stuart MacBride. Odd's the established reader and I'm new to the series...

Synopsis (Goodreads)
You will raise money for the safe return of Alison and Jenny McGregor. If you raise enough money within fourteen days they will be released. If not, Jenny will be killed.

Alison and Jenny McGregor—Aberdeen's own mother-daughter singing sensation—are through to the semi-finals of TV smash-hit Britain's Next Big Star. They're in all the gossip magazines, they've got millions of YouTube hits, and everyone loves them.

But their reality-TV dream has turned into a real-life nightmare. The ransom demand appears in all the papers, on the TV, and the internet, telling the nation to dig deep if they want to keep Alison and Jenny alive.

The media want action; the public displays of grief and anger are reaching fever-pitch. Time is running out, but DS Logan McRae and his colleagues have nothing to go on: the kidnappers haven't left a single piece of forensic evidence. The investigation is going nowhere.

It looks as if the price of fame just got a lot higher.
My Thoughts: I had a really rough time getting into this book. Really rough. As in, if I hadn't been reading this as one half of a joint review, I probably would have stopped at the 15% mark. But I soldiered on. Or something. My issues were twofold. Or maybe three. Let's see...

Part 1: I had a really hard time believing that a police force could be THAT incompetent. I mean... HOLY SMOKES! Between the genuinely stupid mistakes some of the police dudes made (err... I can't remember where all the DIs and DSs get applied, so I'm just going to call them "police dudes" and move along.) and the circles the dude from SOCA had them running in (literally retreading ground they'd already covered in some instances, on top of being very close-minded about the direction of the investigation), I came to the conclusion that having a crime committed against you in Aberdeen basically means you're screwed.

Part 2: Holy regional uses of words, Batman! Not being from Scotland, I had a tough time deciphering what was being said in many instances. Add this to the police jargon (which tends to make me have crazy eyes, anyway) and I was lost on more than one occasion. Yes, I could figure it out... eventually... but it took more time and patience than I was happy with.

Part 3: After all the build up with the kidnapping and the torture of Jenny and Alison, I was disappointed in how quickly the ending played out. I feel like the other crimes Logan was investigating gave us more closure than that one. I wanted more. I wanted the person who masterminded everything to suffer a little more. I wanted the people who tortured a little girl for shits and giggles to be brought down slowly, with much pain and public jeering. The only ones who ended up really suffering are the victims and the children of the victims. Frankly, that sucks.

This isn't a terrible book, despite what all my griping implies. The last half of the book moved along nicely -- I don't know if that was because I was getting into the flow of the speech patterns or what -- and there were some genuinely interesting characters. However, I don't recommend starting this series with book 7. Maybe... book 1. You know, just for kicks.

Odd's Thoughts: ...LOVED IT!

Despite my ongoing dislike of Samantha The Love Interest, on the grounds that she's not as awesome as Logan's previous girlfriend, this book hit the nail squarely on the head for me. It's every bit as good as the first one that got me utterly hooked on this series, Cold Granite. I read that one and then went on a book-buying rip, until my poor credit card sat shaking in a corner, whimpering at intervals.

The second and third books were almost as good, but spent more time on police force interpersonal DRAMA than the actual crimes, and got a little carried away with subplots. On the plus side, however, that gave the reader more time to spend with DI Steel, who is one of my favorite characters ever. And in answer to your question, Kel, yes, the police in Aberdeen are portrayed as being that incompetent throughout. There's this ongoing theme of Logan's competence being called into question through no fault of his own, and that's how he winds up working for DI Steel, who is kind of the lead fuck-up, who cheerfully starts her staff meetings by leading everyone in a rousing chorus of, "We are not at home to Mr. Fuck Up!"

Told you she was awesome.

Four, Flesh House, was stunning, in the same way a mallet between the eyes is stunning. The fifth and sixth books kind of went overboard on plot cray-cray, and left me kind of ...huh. But for me, even a so-so MacBride is still fantastic. Let's put it this way: I usually don't read books with animals and especially animal cruelty in them, but at least one dog dies every damn book and I'm still here.

I loved how dark Shatter the Bones was, and it really struck a perfect balance between plot and personal drama. One criticism of the series I've seen is how much abuse Logan takes in the line of duty, and whether it's overboard or whatnot. And there was one point in this book that seemed to address that criticism, where Logan channels his inner Mary, Queen of Scots:

Although look how well that ended for *her*.

And turns into a badass mofo. Which I loved.  So good. I cannot wait for the next book. I might have to cave in and buy it in hardcover...

Odd: Ma'am, this is ALL YOUR FAULT. Because now I have finally read this book I am going to have to wait like, actual MONTHS until the next one comes out.

Kelly: I'm sorry! I'M SORRY! However, I'd just like to point out that you would have had to wait months to read it in the first place if you had waited until the next book was ready to spring fully formed from Stuart MacBride's head.

Odd: Point. But I really wanted this book to go on for another 500 pages. Not just the cliffhanger ending, but the dark twist near the end which I felt like heralded the start of a different book. Anyway, time for the big question: did you enjoy it?

Kelly: Honestly, the book was okay. Just okay. I thought the twist in question was intriguing but, not KNOWING the characters as well as people who have been following them through the previous six books did, it didn't have quite the impact for me that I think the author was aiming for. As I mentioned in my review, I was also disappointed in the resolution to the kidnapping storyline. I like the bad guys to get it good. I'm bloodthirsty like that.

Odd: I understand your bloodthirsty urges but at the same time I thought that both Green (the SOCA man) and the public had been set up as villains who were just as terrible as the kidnappers and Green at the very least got his comeuppance. And it's something to think about that the public really didn't.

And in my defense, I do like my crime books darkity dark dark dark and morally ambiguous: Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, R.D. Wingfield, Lin Anderson, Ann Cleeve. And I like a good tortured protagonist. Honestly, watching horror movies the other day I realized I really like stories that end with the hero either dead, insane or both, and I think there's a fair chance McRae's series will end that way.

I am sad you joined the series in this book, however, if only because you don't really get the full majesty of DI Steel. And I am totally Team Roberta.

Kelly: Good point about Green and the public. Not going to lie, the public's actions were a bit disturbing. Not just the physical side of it, but also the way they glommed onto this entire situation and kept feeding the frenzy until it took on a life of its own. That was well done on MacBride's part, I must say.

DI Steel was... something. I'm not sure if I want to slug her or sit back at a safe distance and watch the fireworks she caused every time she walked into a room. No, I take that back. I wasn't sure about her in the beginning (and keep in mind that I knew NOTHING about her and she was rather abrasive the first time she popped on scene) but she had a couple of moments as the story progressed that made me genuinely like her character.

Odd: The two books before this one, Blind Eye and Dark Blood were much more Steel-y, and you get this great look into the dedicated and uncompromising trainwreck that is DI Roberta Steel.

But on the plus side, Shatter the Bones had much more of McRae and DC Rennie, who is basically a Labrador Retriever in a police uniform. Like this:
Steel waved a hand, indicated the milling throng packing the graveyard, the TV crews, the huge screens and speakers. "Celebration of a wee girl's life and all these famous buggers actually setting foot in Aberdeen for a change. They're here anyway, what else they going to do, go down to Codonas and play on the dodgems?"

"Ooh, ooh! Look, it's Robbie Williams!" The only thing Rennie didn't do was clap his hands as he jumped up and down. "ROBBIE!"

"Next time, I'm not going to thump you, I'm going to knee you in the balls." [said Logan]

Rennie's face fell. "Inspector...?"

"Don't be such a jobbie, Laz. Rennie, you scurry off and wet your wee star-struck panties if you like."

"Thanks, Guv!" Rennie pushed his way through the crowd, making for the progression of VIPs. "God, there's the bloke from Cash in the Attic!"

Logan watched him go. "Next time we're at the vet, I'm getting him fixed."

Although, is that quote more fun if you know what dodgems are?

Kelly: The quote is fun as it is but... I don't know what dodgems are. Is? Okay, now you have to tell because I don't want to be forever out of the loop!

Odd: Bumper cars :)

Kelly: Ha! Okay. That.. makes me laugh.

I'm curious, did this book live up the previous in the series for you?

Odd: So, Logan used to be dating a fellow PC named Jackie, who departed after book 3, Broken Skin. And let me tell you, this new chippie, Samantha? She is no Jackie. Right, so after that came Flesh House which was creepifying but all plot, less heart. Books 5 and 6 were basically less plot, all Grampian Police drama drama drama, including the departure of DI Insch and a brief sojourn to Poland that I didn't find as fun as anything in Aberdeen, but could be forgiven for how much DI Steel there was.

I mean, the books were good, but a little uneven.

This book, however? Knocked it out of the park for me. It was well-balanced and the plot drove the drama, much like back in books 1 and 2. The plot makes sense. It's tying up loose ends and shoving them all forward. I read it straight through in one day and thought it was kind of genius. But I appreciate what you're saying about coming in at this point in the series and having to do some serious translation.


That's probably the best summary of my reaction to this book.

Kelly: Ha! I can totally appreciate that. I've had that reaction to many books in the past!

Split Decision

Books in this series
1. Cold Granite
2. Dying Light
3. Broken Skin
4. Flesh House
5. Blind Eye
6. Dark Blood
7. Shatter the Bones - Paperback | Kindle

Author Links
| Website | Twitter | Amazon |

Upcoming Serial Killers Victim: Dead Sky Morning (Experiment in Terror #3) by Karina Halle

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