Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Dying Light by Stuart MacBride

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Dying Light by Stuart MacBride. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Dying Light Dock by Stuart MacBride

Dying Light by Stuart MacBride
A Logan MacRae Mystery
St. Martin's Minotaur
ISBN-10: 0-312-33997-6 (0312339976)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-33997-5 (9780312339975)
Publication Date: August 2006
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae has been bumped to D.I. Roberta Steel's "Screw-up Squad" after a raid he led on a warehouse rumored to be full of stolen property ended with no arrests and one officer critically injured. The backstabbing, limelight-stealing, laziest D.I. on Aberdeen's police force, Steel's team is made up of the "no-hopers," the most worthless or inexperienced members of the homicide department, and Logan will do anything to prove he doesn't belong there. Including working overtime on two baffling cases: the murder by arson of six people, and the beating to death of a prostitute down by the docks, not a high priority compared to the fire. At least not until another prostitute ends up dead.

Although both cases seem simple on the surface--turns out the fire's victims are part of a drug dealer's inner circle, and what fate is to be expected for working girls in Aberdeen's red-light district?--in Stuart MacBride's hands, what's going on in this rainy Scottish city is bound to be much more complicated than it appears.

Review: Dying Light is Stuart MacBride's second police procedural to feature Aberdeen (Scotland) Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae. Logan, assigned to a squad of misfits in the homicide department, is working on several cases, none of which seem to be connected, but each of which involves a violent crime with no obvious motive. The crimes being investigated are brutal, and the violence in the book is often depicted in graphic, sometimes horrific detail.

Dying Light is surprisingly vivid in its descriptions of Aberdeen, and the city is as much of a character in the book as are the detectives in the homicide department and the victims of the crimes under investigation. This is not the Scotland that the tourist boards are advertising to visitors. Much of the narrative takes place at night or in the rain, giving the book a noir feel.

There are long stretches where very little happens. No doubt this is typical of an actual police department investigating any serious crime. There is a lot of bureaucracy, clues to sift through, many of which lead no where, stake-outs that are mind-numbingly boring, and the ever present paperwork. Dying Light includes all this, making the book somewhat long but never dull.

A word of caution: Though it resembles English, the characters in Dying Light speak a language that is, at times, "colorful", explicit, and completely foreign to the American reader. For the most part, unknown words can be defined by the context in which they are found, but at times, a handy website of Scottish slang will be helpful to have available.

What elevates Dying Light above similar books in this genre is the author's willingness to take risks in style, tempo, and characterization. The result is a memorable mystery.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of Dying Light for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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