A Dark So Deadly - Stuart MacBride

Apparently I'm expected to show up at work on a regular basis.....huh. Weird. It's been crazy lately & I'm really behind on reviews. So my weekend project is throwing together some random thoughts for the last 3-4 books I've read, including this one. Try to contain your excitement. 




Ok, here goes....


You think you’re having a bad day? DC Callum McGregor is having a bad life. After being raised in care, he became a cop to help people like himself. But the trajectory of his career took a nose dive after covering for his pregnant girlfriend when she screwed up a crime scene. Now he works in the unit of last resort with a motley crew who have all been “specially selected” for various reasons.


They are the dogsbodies who get all the grunt work….like picking through Oldcastle’s garbage dump after receiving reports of a body. DI “Mother” Malcomson & DS McAdams are hoping for a nice juicy murder case. Instead, they find a mummy.


Callum gets no end of grief from his co-workers who think he purposely contaminated a crime scene on behalf of a local gangster. So when DC Franklin joins the unit, he gets the babysitting job. She’s a gorgeous black woman, 3 things that ensure she’s had to put up with more than your average cop. And she wastes no time putting Callum in his place. Great…one more person to dump on him.


They get called out to an abandoned vehicle only to find the trunk is inhabited. By another mummy. It’s the start of an investigation that leads to more bodies, odd evidence, missing persons & forensic fumbles.


Of course, WE know what’s going on. In alternate chapters we peek over the shoulder of a deranged & twisted killer trying to buy his way into heaven. As the story progresses we get the 411 on what they’re doing & why, everything except their name (I’m just going to take a moment & say “Eeewww”).


And that’s only one thread of the story. There are multiple side plots having to do with domestic abuse, office politics & Callum’s personal life. There’s a large cast who are well developed with distinct personalities. Incredibly, despite the number of characters & story lines, you never feel lost or confused & everything is neatly woven together by the end.


To be honest, it took me a bit to fully sign on with this one. I’m a huge fan of the author & wait (im)patiently for his books. One reason is a gift for black humour that makes me giggle at the most inappropriate times & I missed that here. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of funny bits, particularly some of Callum’s dialogue in the second half as he comes into his own. It’s of the less dark variety but that’s just a personal preference thing & no reflection on the writing. I even got used to McAdams’ tendency to speak in haikus. Then a couple of things happened that changed Callum & his circumstances & from that point I was all in.


The evolution of the “Misfit Mob” feels authentic & is very well done. Initially they interact like bickering school kids, all of them resenting where they’ve ended up. But as the scope of what they’re dealing with becomes clear, they start to work as a unit & learn to tolerate each others’ personal tics. Oh they still squabble but it’s more like siblings instead of sworn enemies.


If you noticed and/or felt intimidated by the page count, you can relax. The story lines get equal time & it all zips along at a pace that keeps you on your toes. The killer is not the only man of mystery & you’ll keep reading into the wee hours just to learn the real identity of several of the characters. And as it heads into the last quarter, don’t be surprised if you find yourself curled up in the fetal position with every light on. It becomes compulsive reading & I’m willing to bet you’ll reach the end in less time than some books that are half the size. It’s a proper big stonking read with great characters & here’s hoping we run into Callum & his crew again.