The Missing and the Dead by Stuart MacBride
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So I’ve finished my month long trawl through the Logan McRae series with book 9, The Missing and the Dead (although I still have some McRae and Steel short stories / novellas to read, yay). The Missing and the Dead is different from the previous eight books in that most of it takes place in the small town of Banff, on the Aberdeenshire coast, as Logan goes back into uniform as a duty sergeant. MacBride seems to do a good job at reflecting the changing face of Scottish policing and now all the interesting stuff is taken by Major Investigation Teams, leaving uniform to herd escaped cows and spin druggies. Having read all the previous books back to back, it was quite a culture shock to move from gritty Aberdeen to the more sedate seaside town and with our hero not doing anything that exciting. It felt a bit like a final Die Hard movie where instead of Bruce Willis kicking butt, he got a nice sedate job as a supermarket security guard where nothing much happens. It was nice in a way though, as McRae has been through so much shit in previous books, it was good to see him getting a bit of a break. However from a reader’s perspective, someone picking up the book because they like gritty city crime and instead getting something a bit more genteel, it was like “Oh no!!!”. However I of course needn’t have worried, it was nice getting to know the new characters (once I got over missing Rennie and Biohazard) and the wider variety of cases McRae was working on was more like the earlier books in the series. And of course things do get exciting and McRae in no way gets it easy. There’s drug dealers and cash machine robbers but the main storyline is the death of a little girl which thankfully brings DCI Steel into town (I was really missing her) and which links to a backstory that’s been slowly simmering throughout the whole series.
Now I’ve read the whole series (of the novels, as it stands), I’ve been thinking again about why I like the McRae series so much and I thought I’d write a list-
* DCI Steel – I LOVE Steel, at the beginning of the series (when she was just a DI), she leads the ‘Screw Up Squad’ and I was disappointed when McRae got transferred to her team, away from the constantly sweet eating DI Insch who I much preferred at the time. DI / DCI Steel is loud, sweary and obnoxious and it takes a while to warm to her but she’s brilliant, funny and has a heart of gold.
* The food – a policeman’s diet in Aberdeenshire is an unhealthy one but oooh it sounds delicious. Think lots of junk food, particularly the Aberdeen speciality of stovies (a type of lard bread roll), bacon rolls and macaroni cheese and chips, so reading the series made me drool, except for the book Flesh House which was the absolute opposite!
* The weather – the weather in Aberdeenshire seems to mostly be extreme, it’s either bitterly cold and snowing or extremely wet. As a Londoner I’m getting a bit fed up of the samey grey weather you get here all the time, it hasn’t (other than the last week) even been raining that much, so reading books where the characters are getting bashed by the elements so much was a nice change.
* The banter – ooh I hate that word normally but that’s what the conversations between McRae and his colleagues actually are and it’s a pleasure to read and it really adds to making the characters seem real.
* The long running storylines – there are several long running storylines running throughout the books. Some of the storyline mentions are really subtle, just maybe a line or two but it really helps make McRae’s world seem more complex and real and it helps build up tension for when / if those storylines get resolved.
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