Dark Blood

Monday, 22 August 2011

The whole point of this exercise, at least as far as Hughesy is concerned, is to keep track of what's been read and what I thought about it, particularly when I'm looking at an on-going series that will more than likely be re-read at some indeterminate point in the future.

It's been a while since the last Stuart MacBride title, and with nothing sitting in the archive about any of the preceding five stories in the Logan McRae series I found myself scratching my head fairly early into Dark Blood and wondering whether chain-smoking DI Roberta Steel, the out there and totally unashamed lesbian who leads the Screw-up Squad has been quite as gross in past episodes as she turns out to be here.

You wouldn't expect a female officer in a predominantly male culture like the police force to be a shrinking violet, but I don't recall DI Steel being as out there in earlier episodes as she's turning out to be here.

Maybe it's the external pressures of impending parenthood, but she seems to be passing off a substantial chunk of her case load onto DS Logan McRae, creating the territorial turf war with Detective Inspector Beardy Beattie that produces a fair chunk of the tension threatening to overwhelm McRae as the Grampians police are handed the responsibility of looking after the relocation of vicious rapist Richard Knox, native of Newcastle with roots in Aberdeen and a penchant for geriatric males.

Knox is a serial offender who might have done his time for the one offence the authorities have managed to pin on him, seems to have got through the prison system surprisingly unscathed, may or may not have found religion, but is definitely a nasty, dodgy and manipulative piece of work.

For some reason his relocation is being overseen by DSI Danby from Northumbria Police, the man who put Knox away but somehow has been transformed into his minder while volunteers from SACRO (Safeguarding Communities Reducing Offending) babysit Knox, and the Grampian Police monitor his security. Danby has a definite interest in something about Knox, though it takes a while before you pick up where he's coming from.

Much of the tension comes from the fact that Knox is hardly the only matter of concern to the Grampians Police, and most of them seem to be landing on Logan McRae's plate with three different superiors pushing him in three different directions, questioning his attitude while they do so. As McRae self-medicates the whole box and dice results in regular interviews with the Professional Standards unit.

Apart from looking after Knox there are issues as Edinburgh hard man Malk the Knife McLennan muscles into the Aberdeen property boom that's coming out of Donald Trump's golf course development, setting up the possibility of a turf war with local crime lord Wee Hamish Mowat. McRae's on the edge of that rivalry as Wee Hamish starts flowing financial largesse his way with envelopes of cash unenthusiastically delivered by Hamish's number one offsider, Reuben, though it's not immediately obvious why.

Then there's reporter Colin Miller, McRae's old sparring partner, who, among other bombshells, splashes Knox's whereabouts on the front page of the paper. The headline produces waves of protest that end up with Knox's house (actually, it was his grandmother's, but she's long gone) burning down though Knox has been relocated.

The key to the main plot line lies in the fact that Knox had been the accountant for the late and not entirely lamented Newcastle heavy Mental Mikey Maitland and presumably knows where his considerable fortune is hidden. Under those circumstances it's no wonder Knox is apparently able to call on outside help that brings about an escape from the “safe” house, where they've relocated him, and it's not long before Danby disappears under suspicious circumstances.


© Ian Hughes 2012