Book Review: A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride

What’s it about?

Welcome to the Misfit Mob, where Police Scotland dumps the wayward and troublesome officers it can’t put anywhere else. It’s where they dump the going-nowhere cases too, right on the desk of DC Callum MacGregor. When an ancient mummy is found in Oldcastle tip, it’s Callum’s job to track down whichever dusty museum it belongs to.

But then he uncovers a link between the mummy and three missing young men, and the job starts to get a bit more interesting.

My thoughts

I have a notebook where I make notes about books I’m reading as I go along. My first note for this book says, “I have absolutely  no idea what’s going on”, and I didn’t for the first 50 pages or so. The beginning I found to be a bit bewildering. We first meet DC MacGregor in hot pursuit of a miscreant. Is it relevant? Is it police business? Does it matter?

We’re then introduced to a vast array of characters whose names all seem to start with “Mac”. It took me another 50 pages to get them straight in my head. Luckily, there were another 500 pages after that just to make sure you know what’s what.

This all sounds like I wasn’t a fan of the book. I was, I just thought the beginning was clumsy. It has that standard police thriller plot of two story lines that bounce off and run together but ultimately are resolved separately. I liked that. I like my stories to multitask. I did have a few issues with some of the plot features though. I’ve rarely met a character as thoroughly downtrodden as our DC Callum, and was it really necessary to have him beaten up quite so many times? Is that the nature of modern policing?

Equally, after spending 550 pages or so getting to the grand reveal, it all seemed to be done and dusted quick smart. I would have liked a bit more of a lingering denouement, and there were a few points I still don’t quite get, but on the whole it was a good thriller. Having found the beginning quite perplexing, I did get into it, and when calamity upon misery was heaped upon poor Callum’s head, I felt for him. I liked the character of McAdams, too, and his clever intertextual remarks. Actually, the characters as a whole are pretty strong, even Elaine, Callum’s horrible girlfriend. I would’ve liked more of DCI (I think) Malcomson but maybe that’s for another story.

I gather MacBride has written other thrillers; I don’t think I’ve read them, but I’d look him out if I fancied a good Scottish police thriller.

Would I recommend it?

Yeah, I would. If Scottish police thrillers are your cup of tea, fire away!

A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride is published by HarperCollins priced £7.99. Having said that, it’s just come out in paperback and there are copies everywhere. In your local independent bookshop, in the supermarket, on the street corner. Look over your shoulder! There’s probably a copy there.

I received an advance copy to review thanks to NetGalley.

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