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I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

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Dark and gritty

A Dark So Deadly - Stuart MacBride

I have come to expect from Stuart MacBride a certain use of language, a certain Celtic/Scottish razor-sharp banter and a brutal realism in the unfolding of the story...with that in mind A Dark So Deadly does not disappoint. The setting is the fictional town of Oldcastle (used previously by the author and in particular the Ash Anderson books, Birthdays for the Dead and A Song for the Dying) as seen through the eyes of DC Callum MacGregor...."Squat grey council houses scrolled past on either side of the street, lichen -flecked pantiles and harled walls. Front gardens awash with weeds. More abandoned sofas and washing machines than gnomes and bird tables...." Macgregor has been accused of accepting a bribe and tampering a crime scene in order to allow Big Johnny Simpson escape a murder charge and because of this has been assigned to the "Divisional Investigative Support Team" Officers assigned to DIST are asked to work on boring impossible to solve cases, one step away from dismissal. When what appears to be a ancient mummy is discovered Macgregor and his colleagues from the Misfit Mob are sent to investigate. A post mortem examination reveals recent dental work and Macgregor now finds himself part of a murder investigation. As the  body count mounts the race is on to reveal the identity to a killer who enjoys "smoking" his victims granting  them a type of God like status.


This is one big story, stretching to some 600 pages with the action and crisp dialogue full on from the opening. There are some wonderful characters, and that fine turn of wit and black humour that is the signature of MacBride's writing. We encounter DCI "Poncy Powell" and Macgregor's immediate superior DI Malcolmson affectionately  referred to as "mother" (not quite as gregarious and crude as DI Steele in the Logan McRae novels) And of course not forgetting that great witticism..."A sad excuse for a beard that looked as if he'd made it himself out of ginger pubic hair"... "Watt stiffened. Thank you, Constable, but I'm dealing with this.."Please forgive him. He's been in a bad mood ever since he got back from the doctor. They can't do anything about his frighteningly small penis, and it's upset him a bit."....."He wasn't a dick when I met him."Yeah  well you know the old saying: some men are born dicks, some have dickishness thrust upon them, and some achieve dickosity all on their own."


This is a story full of murderers and paedophiles, of people living at the edge of society in squalor and depravity, a story where even the police survive by adopting a type of gallows humour. Where else but in Stuart MacBrides writing would you encounter a character like police officer Andy McAdams, dying of bowel cancer, still on active service, and able to create humour out of his terminal condition.."There he was standing at the bar, knocking back a sneaky whisky while the barman pulled the pints. "They've got him on another round of chemotherapy, Being colourful is how he copes. Great. Callum puffed out a breath. "I'm sorry he's dying. But now and then, it might be nice if he was colourful at someone else for a while...."


My only small criticism is the page count and I personally felt it would have been better condensed into 450 pages. As I reached the surprising conclusion and the perpetrator was finally revealed I felt, similar to many of the police officers, mentally battered and bruised and somewhat glad that the action was at an end. This however is a small and personal observation which did not detract from the telling of an exciting story from an author I greatly admire. I do hope Police Officer Callum MacGregor will return in the near future for another breathtaking roller coaster outing. Many thanks to the good people at Harper Collins for supplying me with a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written...