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Cold Granite    by Stuart MacBride order for
Cold Granite
by Stuart MacBride
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Being a longstanding fan of Ian Rankin (one of whose books is read by a character in this story) and Quintin Jardine, I was delighted to find another execellent author of Scottish police procedurals - though Cold Granite is an amalgam of procedural and thriller, his main characters getting a lot more violent action up close and personal than usual for fictional police officers. This one is set in the 'Granite City' of Aberdeen, with three things in abundance - 'Pubs, churches and rain.'

Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae is just back from a year's leave after being knifed on the job. He's supposed to be taking it easy, but instead is called out to the scene of a murder - three-year old David Reid was strangled and mutilated, and the discovery of his body is just the beginning in a series of cases of missing and dead children. Logan encounters plenty of violence in this case too, starting when he notifies David's family, who already heard from hotshot journalist Colin Miller (with whom MacRae eventually develops an uneasy friendship, with a careful exchange of information). It seems the media have an insider source, which continues to plague the investigation and throw suspicion on all involved. While all this goes on, the detectives are following the trial of an accused pedophile, who unfortunately has a very talented defence lawyer.

MacRae ends up working under large, bald, tough, candy addicted, amateur pantomine actor Detective Inspector Insch, who doesn't suffer fools gladly, and thinks everyone is one. Insch makes no allowances for MacRae's current fragility, except that he assigns him a 'guardian angel', WPC Jackie Watson, nicknamed 'Ball Breaker' for good reason. To complicate his life even more, Logan has to deal often with lovely chief pathologist Isobel MacAlister, who happens to be his ex-girlfriend. A minor success leads to Logan's being assigned another case, that of a kneecapped male, a floater, found in the harbor. More kids soon disappear and the pressure steadily increases, until suspicion falls on a mentally ill ex-historian, a sadly damaged council worker nicknamed Roadkill.

The plot has plenty of twists and turns, as MacBride masterfully ties together all of these seemingly unrelated loose strands. He shows a very credible MacRae, making mistakes, learning on the job, and being thrown in the deep end as he's groomed for promotion. Logan and Jackie also have difficulty balancing their growing attraction to each other with their work relationship. And the finale is spectacular. Val McDermid rightly calls this brilliant debut 'Tartan noir at its best'. In Cold Granite, Stuart MacBride shows the folly of assumptions, and the damage done by both a serial killer and by the general public seeking vengeance. His final words are fitting to the story - 'Another case solved. Another life ruined.'

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