‘We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.’
It’s been seventeen months since the Bloodsmith butchered his first victim and Operation Maypole is still no nearer to catching him. The media is whipping up a storm, the top brass are demanding results, but the investigation is sinking fast.
Now isn’t the time to get distracted with other cases, but Detective Sergeant Lucy McVeigh doesn’t have much choice. When Benedict Strachan was just eleven, he hunted down and killed a homeless man. No one’s ever figured out why Benedict did it, but now, after sixteen years, he’s back on the streets again – battered, frightened, convinced a shadowy ‘They are out to get him’ and begging Lucy for help.
It sounds like paranoia, but what if he’s right? What if he really is caught up in something bigger and darker than Lucy’s ever dealt with before? What if the Bloodsmith isn’t the only monster out there? And what’s going to happen when Lucy goes after them?
I really don’t know what to say about this. It started out as a five-star read and I was very excited to read on. I did find DS Lucy’s McVeigh’s behaviour slightly odd at times and when we discover why she is suffering from PTSD, we begin to understand, though certain things about how she dealt with it made me wonder how she is still a police officer. There is a difference between justice and revenge.
Her sidekick Duncan ‘The Dunk’ Fraser is brilliant, always having a go at the posh twats with his very left-wing politics. I get the feeling the author is trying to tell us something through Dunk.
Lucy and Dunk are trying to catch a serial killer nicknamed the Bloodsmith, who has committed the most heinous of crimes, gutting his victims, leaving their entrails hanging out and taking their organs with him as souvenirs. It couldn’t get any worse if Jack the Ripper had been his accomplice.
We also have two parallel murders of homeless men. The book actually begins with an eleven-year old girl called Allegra and her friend Hugo killing the unknown ‘Malcolm’ with horrifying ferocity. Sixteen years ago Benedict Strachan also killed a homeless man with the help of an unknown accomplice. Benedict is now out of prison and Lucy seems more obsessed with him than with catching the Bloodsmith.
And this is where it all changed. About three quarters of the way through, the book became more about Lucy than the crimes – her childhood, her PTSD, her doubts in her own sanity, her delusions – and I began to lose patience.
So I’m sorry but the last quarter just didn’t work for me, which is a shame because it started so well. Brilliant characters, hilarious banter between the officers, great descriptions and everything you could want from a crime novel. So what happened? I’ve no idea. Maybe it just got too weird. I’m still giving it four stars though as the writing is great and I’m sure many readers will love the twist.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.
About the Author in his own words
The life and times of a bearded write-ist.
Stuart MacBride (that’s me) was born in Dumbarton — which is Glasgow as far as I’m concerned — moving up to Aberdeen at the tender age of two, when fashions were questionable. Nothing much happened for years and years and years: learned to play the recorder, then forgot how when they changed from little coloured dots to proper musical notes (why the hell couldn’t they have taught us the notes in the first bloody place? I could have been performing my earth-shattering rendition of ‘Three Blind Mice’ at the Albert Hall by now!); appeared in some bizarre World War Two musical production; did my best to avoid eating haggis and generally ran about the place a lot.
Next up was an elongated spell in Westhill — a small suburb seven miles west of Aberdeen — where I embarked upon a mediocre academic career, hindered by a complete inability to spell and an attention span the length of a gnat’s doodad.
And so to UNIVERSITY, far too young, naive and stupid to be away from the family home, sharing a subterranean flat in one of the seedier bits of Edinburgh with a mad Irishman, and four other bizarre individuals. The highlight of walking to the art school in the mornings (yes: we were students, but we still did mornings) was trying not to tread in the fresh bloodstains outside our front door, and dodging the undercover CID officers trying to buy drugs. Lovely place.
But university and I did not see eye to eye, so off I went to work offshore. Like many all-male environments, working offshore was the intellectual equivalent of Animal House, only without the clever bits. Swearing, smoking, eating, more swearing, pornography, swearing, drinking endless plastic cups of tea… and did I mention the swearing? But it was more money than I’d seen in my life! There’s something about being handed a wadge of cash as you clamber off the minibus from the heliport, having spent the last two weeks offshore and the last two hours in an orange, rubber romper suit / body bag, then blowing most of it in the pubs and clubs of Aberdeen. And being young enough to get away without a hangover.
Then came a spell of working for myself as a graphic designer, which went the way of all flesh and into the heady world of studio management for a nation-wide marketing company. Then some more freelance design work, a handful of voiceovers for local radio and video production companies and a bash at being an actor (with a small ‘a’), giving it up when it became clear there was no way I was ever going to be good enough to earn a decent living.
It was about this time I fell into bad company — a blonde from Fife who conned me into marrying her — and started producing websites for a friend’s fledgling Internet company. From there it was a roller coaster ride (in that it made a lot of people feel decidedly unwell) from web designer to web manager, lead programmer, team lead and other assorted technical bollocks with three different companies, eventually ending up as a project manager for a global IT company.
But there was always the writing (well, that’s not true, the writing only started two chapters above this one). I fell victim to that most dreadful of things: peer pressure. Two friends were writing novels and I thought, ‘why not? I could do that’.
Took a few years though…