Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
In the time it has taken to produce this review, Shatter The Bones, Stuart MacBride’s seventh novel about Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae has hit the top of the bestseller lists. There could be a number of reasons: readers have come to like the much put-upon MacRae, a man who struggles to bring villains to justice despite the incompetence of his colleagues, the failures and time-serving of his chiefs, and the cruel indifference to the suffering they inflict of the news media.
Readers may like to read how MacRae brings the low-lifes of Aberdeen under some sort of control, turning one villain on another, like a mould treating an erupting abcess, as worse events happen in the background. Or readers may like the thrill of recognising their own desire for justice being wreaked upon the strange life that seems to crawl into the light when given the opportunity. The light we are talking about is not the sunlight, it is not the moonlight; it is the radiance of the Klieg Lights in the television studio as strange characters go through their motions on the TV smash hit show, Britain’s Next Big Star.
Think of the people you have seen on Big Brother, X Factor, Star Academy. Then think what in your heart of hearts you want to see done to them. It might be called Barlinnie Has Got Talent. Well, isn’t that where it should be? And something close to that feeling is in the background of Shatter The Bones. Mother and daughter singing pair Alison and Jenny McGregor, making a storm as they have gone through the successive rounds of Next Big Star have been kidnapped; videos of their captivity have been posted on-line; now MacRae has failed to reach a telephone box on time with the ransom that will prevent young Jenny being mutilated. He finds a little toe instead.
The Aberdeen force is undermanned, and this is a missing persons inquiry, not a murder, so it does not receive the maximum staffing it might. MacRae has not had time off for months and is under pressure from his girlfriend to make some. His colleagues are slapstick and blackly near-incompetent, and his immediate boss a lesbian who constantly makes him aware that she is sex-starved by her partner. Forensics can barely cope. I will refrain from too much detail about how MacRae loses his home.
Meanwhile, there is a drug deal gone wrong (that means torture, of course), television production companies who want their stars back, more missing persons, and students who abuse Scotland’s free university tuition. Plotting, cluing and tying-up loose ends are not Stuart MacBride’s forte. You will find incidents a-plenty, though, along with some observations on the aerodynamics of an expensive corset. And perhaps some surrogate satisfaction about the stars of reality TV.