While Stuart MacBride novels are something of an acquired taste, the fans of his series soon become diehards, especially given the exploits of Logan McRae, currently Acting Detective Inspector in the new type of law enforcement embraced in Scotland: Divisional Policing. Back in uniform--with a pay cut, no less--McRae is stationed in rural Aberdeenshire, where the calls for help range from theft to drug trafficking, loitering, and the usual petty crimes that bedevil local forces. More challenging are the serious crimes, like a murdering pedophile who mutilates his victims, and the discarded body of a little girl found at a local swimming pool. The action has the business-as-usual flavor of hectic day-to-day call-outs, requiring officers to put out one fire after another from a missing senior suffering from dementia to a scene of domestic violence, each issue a priority until superseded by a more serious crime.
The thriller starts in classic
MacBride form, with a wild foot chase that appears to be a terrified female fleeing from an abuser but is really a cross-dressing pedophile
who has perpetuated a heinous crime on a hapless victim, Logan and his men in hot pursuit. The wild chase and its aftermath
form the crux of a major storyline when Logan’s decision to force the criminal to lead them to his victim creates reasonable doubt and a possible dismissal when the case goes to court. McRae’s courtroom denouement may be humorous--and typical of convoluted legal proceedings--but it perfectly illustrates the troubling disconnect between field work and the suits who make decisions after the fact, a cruel irony not lost on Logan or his cronies.
One might assume Logan has temporarily escaped Detective Chief Inspector Steel of the Major Investigation Team, but she has pursued him to Division B with her own agenda: she wants him back. So while Logan fends calls about a stolen cash machine to plans for a local drug raid--both pushed to the back burner by the death of the young girl at the pool--Steel is on her phone, interrupting, demanding, cajoling, his private cross to bear. Logan’s personal issues remain unresolved, including the condition of his girlfriend, now in care, as he navigates the detritus of daily duties, including the shock of finding a snoring DCI Steel sleeping naked in his bed because her hotel room neighbors are too noisy.
The Missing and the Dead is a perfect example of this author’s talent for comprehensive storytelling, the reader drawn into the vortex of Logan’s world with all its complications>
The author mixes the mundane with the truly horrific in a rambling style that veers between sporadic conversations at the station--mischief included--and the police calls that pepper the day, his cast of characters both colorful and memorable, not to mention Steel’s determined interference in the manic pace of policing in Division B. While the wilds of Aberdeenshire offer a different
locale for Logan McRae, it’s really just another chapter in the life of a beleaguered police officer in search of respite and the occasional “attaboy.” Not happening.