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by Stuart MacBride
Harper, January 2013
528 pages
16.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007344260

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Stuart McBride's books are often bleak, frequently shocking but invariably riveting even though I do sometimes wonder how the hell any crimes get solved when the detectives concerned are too busy sniping at each other ever to listen to anything anyone is trying to tell them. CLOSE TO THE BONE is no exception to any of these rules.

Logan McCrae is still an acting DI and still living in a crummy caravan after the fire that ruined his flat and almost killed his girlfriend. He's even more down at heel than usual, and thoroughly fed up with whoever is leaving small knots of bones tied up with ribbon around his makeshift home. When a man is found brutally murdered, tied to a stake on some waste ground with a burning tyre around his neck, Logan wonders whether this is an escalation of the turf war between rival gangs that has been raging, or something even more sinister.

When further horrific murders follow hard on the heels of the first, he begins to wonder if there is a connection with a film being made of a best-selling novel involving witch-hunting. The discovery of another body in the strangest circumstances convinces Logan that someone is making this personal, and then the small knots of bones take on a more sinister significance.

McBride's great strength lies in his quick-fire delivery and his sharp pen-portraits of the men and women who populate his pages. The pace of the books are aided by an unusual narrative device which completely avoids the use of any dialogue tags of the 'he said' 'she said' variety in all their many guises. I was half way through the book before I twigged to what was going on in that regard, but the trick didn't lose its appeal as the book progressed.

The only thing that strained my credibility was the revelation that three years have passed since the events of SHATTER THE BONES. None of the characters, not least Logan himself, seem to have moved on in any way, and whilst it seems in keeping for Logan to continue slumming it in a caravan, the fact that he still has his acting DI status is somewhat harder to believe. Surely even in the shambolic world of the Grampian police someone would have got around to making the appointment permanent?

CLOSE TO THE BONE is for those who like their police procedurals served cold, with a hefty does of black humour to leaven the grimmest of killings. It's not for the faint-hearted, but it's easy to see how Logan McRae has built up his following.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, November 2013

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