I’m a huge fan of the Logan McRae novels. It’s unfortunate that All That’s Dead is the first one I’ve reviewed because, although it’s an enjoyable enough read, it’s not my favourite.
For the uninitiated, Logan McRae is a police officer in the Aberdeen area. The premise that makes these novels so fascinating, as Stuart MacBride explained to the Partners in Crime podcast, is the opposite of the familiar crime fiction trope of the larger-than-life detective.
Logan is a conscientious, competent, but fundamentally ordinary man, surrounded by colleagues who range from the mildly eccentric to the bizarre. Throw in a satirical eye for cultural trends and MacBride’s books combine, with acrobatic grace, lacerating comedy and some very dark and brutal crimes.
All That’s Dead starts more quietly than most. A prominent anti-nationalist academic is reported missing from his home. Although a large amount of blood is left at the scene, there is no clear indication of whether he is alive or dead, or whether anyone else is involved. Perhaps for this reason, the investigation lacks a great sense of urgency. Logan’s role in it is also a slightly odd one. He is now working for Professional Standards, the body that investigates the failings of other police officers, and he is assigned to babysit the inspector on this case when it emerges that he has a past as a militant nationalist.
Over the past 11 books, Logan has been through every horror you can imagine (and quite a few you could never have thought of) both personally and professionally. As a reader, I’d find myself desperately thinking, please don’t do that to Logan! That is perhaps why the last two books have dialled things back. But of course it’s that feeling that you want, because it means you’re fully engaged.
As this case escalates, Logan becomes fully embroiled in the investigation of what appears to be an extremist nationalist group. His role as investigator of both the case and the detective running it leads to lots of internal conflict. He also works alongside a number of the regular characters, including Steel.
Ah, Steel. If you’ve been reading the series (and I’d recommend reading them in order) you’ll know that Steel has been present in Logan’s life from the start. She has had a fabulous arc, from loud-mouthed lazy manipulator, to glimpses of hidden depth and brilliance, to insights into her personal life, to confrontations with danger. The relationship between Logan and Steel has similarly evolved. But now I’m not sure where else it has to go.
All That’s Dead ends with a nice little vignette featuring many of the main characters, set a year after the climax of the case. It almost made me wonder if MacBride was drawing a line — and whether that might not be a bad thing.
I received a copy of All That’s Dead from the publisher via Netgalley.
View All That’s Dead on Goodreads
Enjoyed this? Take a look at my review of a brilliant standalone by Stuart MacBride: A Dark So Deadly
How ironic that the other volumes you’ve enjoyed more remain undiscussed here: I often find myself scanning my list of what I’ve reviewed on BIP and spotting major gaps where influential writers’ books should be reviewed but I read them years ago.
I completely agree that that’s a sign of great success on the writer’s part, when you’re silently (or, not!) begging for a different outcome for a character!
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I must admit my reasons for reviewing are more prosaic – if I’ve been given the book by a publisher I review it, if I’ve bought the book I probably don’t!
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