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MacBride, Stuart - 'Broken Skin'
Hardback: 448 pages (May 2007) Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd ISBN: 0007193173

There's something immensely satisfying about reading a book that tackles some very tricky subject matter head-on, with enough of the gory details to illustrate rather than titivate and just the right level of gallows humour. BROKEN SKIN is the third book featuring DS Logan McRae and it's as good as the first two.

It's February and it's raining again. McRae is on DI Steel's team. There's an awful lot going on. There's a vicious, nasty and cruel rapist - slicing up his victim's faces with a knife, but while PC Jackie Watson is taking that particular investigation very, very personally, in the early morning, the blood-drenched, horribly injured body of a man is dumped outside A&E at the local hospital. There's also a massive upswing in burglaries and a major drug investigation.

The dead man is only identified when PC Rickard says that he's recognised a distinctive tattoo in explicit sex films that could be connected to the death. Unfortunately for his sense of gravitas, Rickard also seems to have very direct connections to the local bondage community and, from the victim's injuries, it's very likely so did he.

Most of the characters from MacBride's two earlier books, COLD GRANITE and DYING LIGHT are back - all behaving very much to type and all getting in each other's road and up each other's noses in equal measure. The twist in the focus for this book is that both DIs have equal exposure, they are both forefront and not liking each other's presence one little bit. McRae and Watson's personal relationship is ongoing but is, in a beautiful touch, going nowhere happily. All the other members of the investigation team endure just the right amount of success, failure and merciless ribbing.

As well as those characters, the taut storytelling in BROKEN SKIN carries you along the manic multiple threads, with a really realistic feeling of a cold, wet, miserable city full of cold, wet and miserable criminals and equally cold, wet and miserable police officers. The humour is again dark, savage and thoroughly engaging - DI Steel has got to be one of the all time great offensive women, and this reader in particular, thinks she's marvellous.

Being the third book in the series, the characters are now very well established. Reading the first two books will certainly give you the background for many of the relationships and the antagonisms. Whilst that will definitely help with some of the minor threads going on, it's probably not 100% necessary, particularly if you are the sort of reader that can just accept that there's some tension and not want the details of what lead to that.

Karen Chisholm, Australia
April 2007

last updated 27/04/2007 22:25