There's a war brewing and Logan's trapped right in the middle,
whether he likes it or not...
Book Links: Goodreads
Holy Jesus jobbie...
I only just got my heart under control from MacBride's The Missing and the Dead, and now I might need to seek help. In the Cold Dark Ground is, hands down, the most personal, the most intense, and the most addictive entry to the series yet.
MacBride is one of the best crime writers around, so I'm not even gonna insult you by recommending him: You should already be devouring his works!
But buckle up, my friends, because you're in for a ride of chaos, corruption and comedy so sharp it could cut through metal.
Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)
Logan McRae is in for the hardest week of his life.
A body turns up in one of rural Aberdeenshire's woods, naked, beaten bloody and killed with a bag over the head.
As Steel charges up from Aberdeen to commandeer the case, Logan finds out that Professional Standards are after his old boss something fierce.
And that's not even the worst of it.
Finally, after a long battle, Wee Hamish Mowat, crime lord of Aberdeen, dies, and every criminal organisation wants the turf for themselves.
Reuben, Hamish's friend and new leader, hungers for a deadly war, but first he wants his rival's head on a stick.
His rival, however, just happens to be Sergeant Logan McRae...
Plot - 4.5/5 Stars
Phew, where to start...
MacBride offers a thrilling, and traditional, murder case: A man has been found in the woods, and the case proceeds into XXX territory and circumstances littered with holes. It's smart and twisty, with wonderful smatterings of action. The resolution is harrowing and on point; not only is it completely surprising, but it's 100% believable.
Surprisingly, that's not the biggest plot thread. MacBride brings Wee Hamish Mowat and his criminal empire back around harder than ever. For the best experience, I recommend reading the previous entries to the series, just for the helpful history that shapes how you feel about the choices made by the characters. Simply: Logan becomes embroiled with Aberdeen's crime lord; it's not corruption, exactly. Logan never ever defies the law to help gangsters, but it's been a questionable alliance that's kept Logan up at night.
Fast forward a little and Hamish is dying. His second-in-command, Reuben, views Logan as a threat, and for good reason. Mr Mowat reveals to our protagonist, a police officer, that he wants Logan to take over when he dies...
It's a great storyline! Trust me. It's been slowly burning away, and I'm really glad the author brought it back before it got stale.
So, Hamish dies in this entry, and Reuben goes after Logan. It's about bloody time! I've been waiting for this fight forever. It's action-packed tension at its best. The way the author makes Logan look both guilty and innocent and completely confused has the reader invested. The morality of it all is like a spinning, broken compass. Especially as Logan needs to do his job as a man of the law and also hide the criminal connections he never wanted.
But it all comes to a head; things reach boiling point and no character will be the same.
Working in the background of those stories is a plot that polarises. Steel, lovable Auntie Roberta Steel, is up to conduct the murder inquiry into the dead body found in the woods, only, Superintendent Napier, the cop that polices cops, is fast on her heels: Steel has supposedly framed someone of a crime they haven't committed because they got off of a rape charge.
It's hooking, no doubt about it. I've never been on the edge of my metaphorical seat like this ever. The conclusion is what irks me, even though I can see how we reached it. Logan is roped into investigating his friend and eventually sticking her in the crap.
God, there's so much more, but let's move on and space it out.
In the Cold Dark Ground has whipped straight to #1 on my list for 2016 as the best book (I know, I know, the year's just started but this book is awesome!).
Pace - 5/5 Stars
MacBride introduces more action than there's ever been, imbuing his trademark grit and realism into every scene. The structure balances out those breakneck scenes with exposition expertly.
Twists stab the reader when needed, and the emotional charge of the novel is like a growth keeping you tied to the story.
Characters - 4.5/5 Stars
Oh, Logan, poor bloody Logan. He's going a bit mental; just shy of homicidal. He's had a lot hit him, and In the Cold Dark Ground there's a crap-ton more. He's barely hanging on. His smarts are still there, his willingness and want to do a good job and dish out justice. But his moral dilemma, the gang war he's in the middle of, is perhaps more than one man can shoulder. We reach a rocky conclusion, but I can't wait to see if our protagonist manages to pull back from the brink.
One of Logan's hits takes the form of his girlfriend, Samantha. After being in a coma for five years, it's time, time to shut off her machines and let her go. God, even I let loose a few tears. MacBride has done a great job over the course of the entries of inserting the right emotions into the reader. It's heartbreaking and angering, you never really lose the hope that she'll wake up until she can't...
Oh, and Mr McRae has a sister. A sibling he had no idea about, and she comes in the form of Superintendent Harper. We've had little snippets of Logan's family past, but In the Cold Dark Ground blows it wide open, and in a series as big as this one, you have to give props to the author for masterfully spacing out the protagonist.
We finally come to the dynamic duo part: Steel and Logan. Do you love their relationship? Why am I even asking, of course you do, they're the highlight of the bloody series.
Well, Mr MacBride, what are you doing!? AHHHHHHHHHH! Logan grassing Steel in to Professional Standards ripped my heart out! I just-I just... What's going to happen? Why? Why!? Please don't destroy their relationship. Please, please, please, please!
We need Auntie Roberta and Logan as a team...
Writing - 5/5 Stars
The smoothness of In the Cold Dark Ground is enough to make even the most experienced crime writers jealous, and so it should. The way MacBride involves the reader is phenomenal; the attention to detail is painstaking; and the accuracy of Scottish culture is astounding (there's of course more good than the book can show, but the bad gets the goosebumps going).
Overall - 4.5/5 Stars
Okay, so when do we get another entry?
Tomorrow? Can it be tomorrow?
Previous Instalment: The Missing and the Dead
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