Despite the fact that I never read more than one book at a time - ever - my goal is to have a really good book series waiting in the wings just in case I finish a book but don't have another that interests me. That's complicated a bit because I also hate re-reading a book, no matter how excellent it was (the only exception to that rule was the James Bond series by Ian Fleming).
Over the last couple of years, favorites like Lawrence Block's The Burglar Who series, the series by Spencer Quinn featuring Bernie and his lovable canine companion, Chet, and the John Jordan Mystery series by Michael Lister have played the fill-in role quite nicely.
But then there were no more. So now what? Enter a fellow reader at Goodreads.com, who wrote a great review of one of the Logan McRae books by Stuart MacBride. All the books in the series, he said, are well worth reading (I believe there are 10, but don't quote me on that). The subject matter fit my requirements like a glove; good old-fashioned police procedurals featuring McRae, a detective sergeant. Intrigued, I did a bit of research and - prompted by my online friend's review - set out to give the first one a try (did I mention I always try to read the books in any series in order)?
Turns out this one, the first, is the author's first novel - he's written several other books - and for his effort, he earned the Barry Award for Best First Novel in 2006 (he's won at least a couple of others since then). Well, I said to myself, looks as if this series might be a winner. Taking a deep breath when I learned this one comes in at a hefty 457 pages, I took the plunge.
And darned if it isn't a winner. I admit it got a titch boring right about the halfway mark, but I know some of that stemmed from the unusually nasty ice, snow and below-zero winter temperatures that had kept me and my husband practically housebound for days. The other downer was the city of Aberdeen, Scotland, the setting for the book; the only thing worse than the weather here in northeastern Ohio was the weather over there - and neither was making me happy. In the acknowledgements section, the author himself alludes to the grim surroundings, saying, "Aberdeen's really not as bad as it sounds. Trust me..."
In fact, this book begins in winter, and yes, the weather is awful. McRae has just returned after recovering (for the most part) serious injuries incurred on the job. He's greeted by one of the worst possible crimes: The mutilated body of a three-year-old boy is found in a ditch. And don't think it won't get worse; another child goes missing, then another - and unless the perpetrator is identified and caught, it's pretty clear there will be even more.
The investigation is impeded by leaks to a particularly aggressive reporter who tries to ingratiate himself with McRae, giving co-workers cause to suspect the detective himself. Along the way, McRae must deal with his own emotional issues - an apparently disgruntled ex-girlfriend who happens to be the forensic pathologist, and a fiesty but attractive co-worker who's in the running for next-girlfriend status, at least as far as McRae is concerned.
The case takes on a number of twists and turns - mostly unexpected - as the race continues to find the serial killer before yet another child goes missing and the story concludes with a bang-up ending. Some of the language was a bit hard to decipher (thankfully I've got a daughter-in-law from London, so I understood most of the otherwise strange-to-me terminology). And, I even learned a few new words, such as "beturded" - used here to describe a parking lot after a dog left a deposit in the middle of it. Gotta love it.
All in all, it was quite an enjoyable read. But as for the author's claim that Aberdeen (Granite City, to which the title refers) really is a place I'd like, I'll reserve judgment until I've read the second book in the series, which yes, I plan to do next time I hit a lull on my must-read list.
Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride (HarperCollins, February 2009); 467 pp.