If the crew from Monty Python had gotten serious long enough to crank out a Hannibal Lecter novel, the result would be Stuart MacBride’s DS MacRae series. From the original Cold Granite to this year’s Blind Eye, MacBride has a knack for splicing the most horrific of crimes together with a sharp, witty fictionalization of Aberdeen, Scotland’s Grampian Police.
Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae returns in the fourth installment of the series. This time, his boss, Detective Inspector Steel is relieving the female Scottish population of her advances as she is getting engaged. His other boss, DI David Insch, is bordering on a heart attack, which should not surprise MacBride’s fans. You can only eat so many sweeties before you collapse under the weight of your own bulk and ill temper. And MacRae and PC Jackie “Ball Breaker” Watson are on the outs.
That’s all the good news.
The bad news is a mad serial killer named “The Flesher” has returned after twenty years to feed human remains into Scotland’s meat supply. That’s right. That sausage your eating today was probably your missing neighbor two days ago. A butcher named Ken Wiseman is none too happy to be back under the spotlight. He shouldn’t be. He was convicted of the original slayings twenty years ago. He got out on appeal, but his response to the renewed attention is as violent as his reputation.
Complicating all this is a producer from a BBC reality show following the Grampian Police around. And as usual, the press are having a field day as MacRae’s cohorts stumble into one bad bit of luck after another. It doesn’t help that Chief Constable Faulds has arrived from Birmingham to “assist.”
Flesh House marks a turning point in the series. Anyone who’s read Broken Skin/Bloodshot should not be surprised that MacRae and Watson have split. What does surprise is what’s happened since and where Watson is when the story begins. Near the end, it looks as though MacRae might be leaving Aberdeen behind altogether. He’s offered a plum job elsewhere in Britain with the chance for an immediate promotion. But does he?
MacBride, of course, tosses in a monkey wrench and leaves that hanging. In the meantime, we’re treated to his usual taste for the macabre laced with a dose of dry Scottish humor. The cops in MacBride’s world aren’t always the brightest. But they aren’t institutionally corrupt as in The Wire. If anything, MacBride’s closest procedural cousin is the late Ed McBain. MacBride is funnier, with a sharper sense of irony.
And, Aberdeen tourism, he did promise that Blind Eye would be a summer novel. I have it on my stack, actually. And it is a summer novel.
So stop whinging at the poor bearded writist.