Review

Dying Light

by Stuart MacBride



The promise made and simultaneously fulfilled by Stuart MacBride's
COLD GRANITE is exceeded by DYING LIGHT. MacBride's protagonist is
again Logan MacCrae, an Aberdeen, Scotland Police Detective
Sergeant who is world-weary and troubled, but is more addicted to
food than to alcohol --- no easy task, considering the state of
Scottish cuisine. He also seems to have a tendency to establish
relationships only with women with whom he works. For all of his
wisecracking, MacCrae is in fact an excellent officer, possibly one
of the best on the force.

Thus it is no small irony to find him at the beginning of DYING
LIGHT consigned, by unfortunate accident, to the "Screw-Up Squad."
The squad, led by D. I. Roberta Steel, is made up of cops who have
screwed up. Steel, a somewhat lazy but nonetheless shrewd
taskmaster, establishes an unlikely kinship with MacCrae as they
investigate the brutal murder of a prostitute. MacCrae and Steel
apprehend the likely perpetrator in short order; when the first
victim is followed by a second, however, it appears that a serial
killer is at work. At the same time, MacCrae is working off the
books with his old squad on an arson that resulted in multiple
deaths.

When the two cases slowly begin to intersect with a third, MacCrae
starts to trace the multiple deaths along a trail that leads him
far from the dirty and dark alleys and docks of Aberdeen's ports to
areas of the city where influence, power and safety are bought and
paid for with bitter coin.

Most of the violence in DYING LIGHT takes place off the page, but
it's not because MacBride is squeamish; his descriptions of the
aftermath of the crime in fact are among the most realistic and
vivid one is likely to encounter. They are counterbalanced by some
of the darkest humor I have read this year. On one page MacBride is
describing an ill-functioning couple as seen through the eyes of
their neighbor, a young housewife who indirectly gives the reader a
clue about the grisly contents of a suitcase that was discovered
abandoned a chapter or so before. Then, just as one is digesting
the implications of what has been so subtly revealed, MacBride
throws in a Keystone Kops description --- it would be the one
dealing with parking --- that is so dry yet so funny that you'll
have to stop reading to catch your breath. This is a pattern
repeated throughout DYING LIGHT.

In his acknowledgements, MacBride thanks the Aberdeen Tourist Board
for not lynching him after COLD GRANITE, noting that at least DYING
LIGHT is set in summer. While by all accounts Aberdeen is a lovely,
if chilly and rainy, city, the side of town where MacBride sends
MacCrae patrolling resembles nothing less than post-Katrina New
Orleans, without the charm. With MacCrae as a tour guide, however,
you will want to visit again and again. Very highly
recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

Dying Light
by Stuart MacBride

  • Publication Date: July 31, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0312949359
  • ISBN-13: 9780312949358