Book review: A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride

A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBrideThis is the first Stuart MacBride novel that I’ve read, which is something I now regret. I think perhaps I’ve been put off by looking at a couple of disturbing opening chapters and wrongly coming to the conclusion that these are production-line serial-killer thrillers. However I now see that I’ve missed the point. A Dark So Deadly does open with a victim confronting horrific circumstances but it is about so much more.

DC Callum MacGregor has been assigned to the ‘Misfit Mob’, a group of detectives who have for various reasons been sent into internal exile in Police Scotland. When mummifed remains start turning up on his patch, he is assigned the mundane task of phoning round museums to find where they might have come from. That’s when he’s not being beaten up by a minor local villain (and local minors) and receiving scant sympathy from his own team. The case takes on a new urgency when it emerges that the mummies are not ancient artefacts but the bodies of recently murdered victims.

Running alongside this is the story of Callum’s personal life and his troubled past. Callum is a fascinating character, both put-upon and determined. He can be heroic in his resilience but can also make you want to shake him. And each time you think things can’t get any worse for him, they do.

What I loved about this book was the way MacBride manages to balance very dark and serious storylines with broad comedy, a rich vein of observational humour (he really doesn’t like hipsters!) and moments of sublime absurdity. He does this without trivialising the horror of the murders and other dark events in the book. In fact, I felt the comedic voice of one victim in particular made the tragedy more poignant.

The team that Callum works with is brilliantly balanced – each with their own tragic flaw. There is even an aspiring author among them, willing to offer editorial comment on the progression of the narrative.

The marketing copy says this is a standalone novel. In a way that’s a shame because  I would love to read more about the Misfit Mob. On the other hand the book is so much about Callum’s story that it makes sense to end it here. What’s certain is I will now be reading more by Stuart MacBride.

I received a copy of A Dark So Deadly from the publisher via Netgalley.
View A Dark So Deadly on Goodreads

Enjoyed this? For another take on the misfit cop, take a look at The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox



  1. Dark and serious storylines with broad comedy AND doesn’t like hipsters?? I’m in! 😉 sounds like a great read, I guess we all have to remember not to judge a book by its cover! … Or its openings!


    1. The thing about genre covers is that they’re branded to all look the same, so you can’t be blamed for thinking the authors are all the same! My loss in this case.


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