See now … when you are contacted by the lovely folk at First Monday Crime and asked if you would like to be on the review team – well of course you say yes, don’t you? Well … when you are told that one of the first books up for review is Stuart MacBride’s latest book, Now We Are Dead, then your response (or at least my response) is ‘s!*t me – where do I sign up? Gimme, gimme, gimme!!!’ I am, after all, a very reserved and level-headed blogger and not prone to bouts of over excitement …
Well – actually I am, particularly about this book, as Mr MacBride is one of four authors in my drop everything else to read list (sorry other authors) and so when this little beauty landed on my doorstep, after trying hard not to wet myself with excitement (I know – I need to get out more), I did actually show great restraint and finish the book I was reading first … then dove straight in. I have been dying to read this since I saw it on Amazon – way back before it was meant to have been announced – but after the stonkingly funny A Dark So Deadly, could this book live up to my expectations? We shall see in a moment, just as soon as we’ve taken a look at all the very important and official book stuff …
The Official Book Blurb
She can’t prove he did it. But she might die trying…
From the Sunday Times No.1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, comes a standalone spinoff featuring DS Roberta Steel.
Revenge is a dangerous thing…
Detective Chief Inspector Roberta Steel got caught fitting up Jack Wallace – that’s why they demoted her and quashed his sentence. Now he’s back on the streets and women are being attacked again. Wallace has to be responsible, but if Detective Sergeant Steel goes anywhere near him, his lawyers will get her thrown off the force for good.
The Powers That Be won’t listen to her, not after what happened last time. According to them, she’s got more than enough ongoing cases to keep her busy. Perhaps she could try solving a few instead of harassing an innocent man?
Steel knows Wallace is guilty. And the longer he gets away with it, the more women will suffer. The question is: how much is she willing to sacrifice to stop him?
Any book which can incorporate my most favourite not-a-swear-word, fudgemonkeys, is always going to make me chuckle. Any book which combines the aforementioned not-a-swear-word and the irrepressible Roberta Steel – well you are pretty much guaranteed a cover to cover chucklefest of the grandest nature, all wrapped around issues so serious they can make your heart sink and your blood boil. And that is exactly what you are served by Stuart MacBride in this darkly humorous spinoff from the Logan McRae series, Now We Are Dead.
Now in some ways, it is hard to review this book without some minor spoilers to its sort of predecessor, In The Cold Dark Ground, but I will try. As the blurb suggests, Ms Steel has been a little bit naughty, and found guilty of not entirely following the Police Scotland guidelines for evidentiary support in the conviction of the vile piece of scum that is Jack Wallace. I.e. she set him up. With his sentence overturned he is back on the street and free to start attacking other women.
This doesn’t sit well with Steel, but from her new lowly position as DS she doesn’t get to pick and choose her cases and is warned, in no uncertain terms, to stay away from Wallace. When violent assaults against women begin again, Wallace seems to have an unbreakable alibi. Steel doesn’t believe it for one moment, but there is little she can do other than wait for Wallace to show his hand. Of course, for Steel, and those she loves, that moment could come a touch too late …
From the moment you open this book and start reading, it is like being welcomed back into the safe arms of your more than slightly dysfunctional family. The team of the North East Division are a hoot, a complete mismatch of characters and personalities which, somehow, just seem to compliment each other, whilst creating an overwhelmingly comedic effect. At the head of the team you have Steel, with her inimitable style – her sarcasm, her gruffness, even crudeness, which affects the team in a variety of ways. All of them, I might add, are great value for money for the reader. You are guaranteed entertainment from every single madcap situation that they find themselves in.
Now if you have read any of the Logan McRae books then you will be well aware of Roberta Steel. There really should be no need for an introduction. For the uninitiated, then suffice to say this is a women for whom the term politically correct has little meaning, other than ticking the right box on an election or referendum ballot paper, assuming that is, that she takes time to vote. She drinks, she swears, she has been known to cut the occasional corner to further a case, and if there is a way to avoid physical exertion then she has probably found it. That said, she has a true desire for justice which can sometimes lead her into trouble. You get a sense of her softer (?) side, when it comes to a harrowing case involving a neglected child, and also her relationship with her partner Susan and their two daughters, even if she could well swing for their father right now. She definitely isn’t the warm and fuzzy kind at work, but while she doesn’t always show it, in her own way she has a real affection for her team, especially young DC Quirrel, a.k.a. Tufty.
Ah Tufty. What a star. Newly transferred to Aberdeen as a Detective Constable having served under Sergeant McRae, you cannot help but fall for his bashful naivety, determination and youthful enthusiasm. He is an absolute scream. With much of the action told from his perspective you will find yourself both laughing with, and occasionally at, our hapless hero. From his awkward attempts to chat up fellow Police Officer, PC Kate Mackintosh, to an ill-advised attempt to call a halt to a demonstration by local farmers which results in a rather unsavoury shower, everything the poor chap is put through – well to be fair it just made me laugh. A lot. Despite his comic interludes though, Tufty is a fluffing good copper.
Now if there is one thing that Stuart MacBride excels in, it’s bringing out the dark humour in a book without it overshadowing what is, in essence, a really dark and sometimes disturbing, story. There are moments which make the skin crawl; where the violent attacks occurring around Aberdeen make you wonder if Steel didn’t have the right approach towards Wallace in the first place, however ill-advised her actions were. The book moves seamlessly between the serious and the frivolous, Stuart MacBride being able to flick the switch between making you want to laugh and then cry. It would take a heartless cow not to be upset by what happens in poor Mrs Galloway’s flat. I mean, don’t you just hate it when your Pudding explodes all over the microwave … But I have to be honest, as much as that scene made me both grimace and go awwww, it led to quite a few smiles a bit later on in the book. If you read it, you’ll know why. You’re a brave man though, Mr MacBride. There’s not many folk would tackle that taboo a subject.
The cast of characters are perfectly sculpted – everything you would expect from a Stuart MacBride novel. From a truly evil, cunning and manipulative bad guy in Jack Wallace, to the moaning, put upon and quite literally set upon DC ‘where are ma pants’ Harmsworth, you have the full gamut of MacBride classics all in one place. There is even a representation of Marvel heroes that I don’t think you’d find in any of their licensed comics. Holy hand-cramp Batman!!! Christ, so many things pretty much had me chuckling. Even the style of the book, the layout, each chapter preceded by a description of what is to follow, adds to the tone of what you are about to experience. The sub headings will make you smile/frown as you puzzle over what they mean. Their execution will have you chortling for days. The illustrations that accompany the hardback are just spot on, especially ‘Tufty’s Super Secret Map of Aberdeen.’ It’s worth getting the book for that alone, although you’re missing a real treat if you don’t read what comes before it.
If you are a fan of the Logan McRae series, or of Mr MacBride in general, especially his wonderfully dry, very astute observations of the human character, or if you just think Roberta Steel is a real scream, then you will love this book. If you are easily offended and don’t like tales of ‘fudgemonkery’ or ‘Womble wallopers’ … ahhhh, stuff it. Read it anyway. If you haven’t read any of these books before? Okay, so there will be spoilers (sort of) but only in a very (very) minor way as to the ending of the last Logan McRae book, but nothing that will stop you enjoying this or any of the other books in that series. Don’t get me wrong. While the McRae books can be occasionally dark, this book too at times, this in particular is a lesson in Stuart MacBride’s pure comic genius, more akin to A Dark So Deadly, than Cold Granite and certainly lighter in tone than the Ash Henderson series. But by god this is good.
Very, very (very) good. My only regret? Ferreting fudgemonkeys – it’s having finished so dang fast. There is a reason these books are on my absolutely must read list. It’s because they are absolutely bloody brilliant. This is no exception.
Very highly recommended ‘snake-alicious’ read. Most definitely in my top reads of 2017. I loved it. Can you tell? I know I’ve been somewhat reticent about making my feelings clear on the subject, but just in case you were in any doubt, it really is rather good.
So good, I may well have to award it one of these …
My ‘Red Hot Read’ badge, reserved for only my very favouritest of favourite books. Yup. No doubt about it. This book’s hotter than a Pudding in a 1000 watt microwave …
Now We Are Dead is released on 2nd November and can be purchased at the following links. Go on … you know you want to.
Stuart MacBride will be appearing at First Monday Crime in November where I will absolutely not be author stalking the man who once accused me of being a book pimp! If you would like to author stalk Stuart or any of the other three fabulous folk appearing in conversation with Barry Forshaw, you can book tickets for the event, and learn more about First Monday Crime, at their website here.
About the Author
Stuart MacBride was born in Dumbarton, near Glasgow and moved to Aberdeen at the age of two. After dropping out of university to work offshore he went to work for himself as a graphic designer, eventually becoming studio manager for a nationwide marketing company. He gave it all up to have a go at becoming an actor, until it became clear to him that he was never going to be good enough to make a decent living out of it.
Whilst progressing through a whole new career in the IT sector, ending up as project manager for a global IT company, Stuart also wrote in his spare time. He is now the No.1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series and the Ash Henderson series.
His novels have won him the CWA Dagger in the Library, the Barry Award for Best Debut Novel, and Best Breakthrough Author at the ITV3 Crime Thriller awards. In 2012 Stuart was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Hall of Fame.
Stuart’s other works include Halfhead, a near-future thriller, Sawbones, a novella aimed at adult emergent readers, and several short stories.
He lives in the north-east of Scotland with his wife, Fiona and cat, Grendel.
Image and bio courtesy of Harper Collins