The story centres on the kidnapping of singing sensations from the reality TV show Britain’s Next Big Star, Alison Gregory and her six-year-old daughter Jenny. McRae investigates but runs into problems when no evidence of any kind is available, other than a ransom note explaining that the two will be killed unless money is raised within 14 days. Donations pour in from concerned viewers and fans, but it’s not until something more unusual arrives in the post that the investigation ramps up. With massive media and public interest, and increasing pressure from them, the race is on to find the kidnappers before it’s too late. Alongside this, Logan McRae must deal with a drug deal gone wrong, which has personal ramifications.
MacBride is on form here, even if the book is slower paced than usual. Having only read one McRae novel previously, I was a little worried I’d be behind the story in places, however the author seems to approach each book with this in mind, meaning I wasn’t lost reading this one. Some backstory was missing, but this didn’t detract from overall plot of the book. Having read MacBride’s other standalones, I was familiar with his style of writing, and Shatter The Bones doesn’t disappoint.
Shatter The Bones is not a novel for the faint hearted though. It’s very dark in places, unafraid of taking the reader into the depths of despairing situations. Moving at a slower pace has allowed MacBride to bring to life the city of Aberdeen in a way that is on a par with Rankin’s Edinburgh, or Billingham‘s London series.
Another facet is his use of humour. Deliciously dark one-liners are peppered throughout, without detracting from the story. The characters are all multi-layered, believable (if perhaps in some unbelievable situations) and beautifully flawed. MacBride is incredibly adept at slowly ramping up the tension, with a great twist towards the end.
Overall, an excellent read. I’d highly recommend any of MacBride’s books to anyone interested in something towards the darker end of the crime fiction spectrum. Shatter The Bones – and that title is pertinent – is not easy to stomach in some places; it’s violent and unyielding, yet it’s fantastic writing. MacBride is becoming one of the great British crime writers.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars