Review of Dying Light by Stuart MacBride

I’m not sure why I waited so long to read Stuart MacBride’s sophomore outing, Dying Light. Mr. MacBride found instant success with his first crime fiction novel, Cold Granite, which I couldn’t get through because of the subject matter of small children as victims. But on my two unsuccessful attempts to read Cold Granite, even as I laid the book down unfinished, I knew I was in the midst of a wonderfully talented crime fiction author. Dying Light is a wonderful police procedural set in Aberdeen, Scotland. Detective Sergeant McRae and his copper friends attempt to catch a serial killer who is snuffing out middle-aged prostitutes. McRae, who just months ago was labeled the “golden boy” of his crime unit, has botched what seemed like a simple raid which leaves one of his comrades in a coma. As punishment for not following proper procedure, McRae is assigned to a unit known as the Screwed-up Squad, lead by an almost unbelievable female Detective Inspector who passes gas, uses perfect profanity, and smokes cigarettes one after another. To escape the Bad New Bears unit, McRae works diligently to find the prostitute serial killer plus help his old unit find one of the most original arsonists in crime fiction history. This magnificently layered book was perhaps the most gruesome one of recent history, maybe ever, which works perfectly for my noir taste. Picture cooking shears and human digits. Picture families fire-bombed in their own homes by a sick arsonist who gets pleasure in bolting doors and windows closed with three inch screws before lighting the match. This book is not for the faint of heart. But if you like your crime fiction gory yet gripping, then Dying Light is the one for you. MacBride writes some of the best autopsy and crime scenes that make Patricia Cornwell and Linda Fairstein seem juvenile. His writing is superb as he writes characters that remind this reviewer of the early work of Dennis Lehane; MacBride’s character McRae and his girlfriend WPC Watson are reminiscent of Lehane’s own Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. Often, experienced crime readers see authors fall prey to the dreaded “sophomore slump” or second book. This certainly isn’t the case for this talented author who has the gumption and the gall to have a very successful career. His work is technically proficient in writing a tight police procedural and at the same time he depicts characters that are warped, yet completely likeable. I highly recommend Dying Light, which will appear in paperback in the US in July 2007. MacBride’s third DS McRae novel, Broken Skin is now available in the UK. I like this author so much, I buy the UK version of his newest book as soon as it is available. Now I’m asking myself, “How long I’ll wait to read MacBride’s next outing?” Probably not very long!

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