“Tartan noir” liberally laced with wit
makes for an outstanding police procedural!
A new standalone thriller from Stuart MacBride,
the author of the Logan McRae mystery series.
Meet Mother’s Misfit Mob – a detective unit of Police Scotland, the ‘mob’ is made up of coppers who for various reasons have been shunted here in disgrace, or if the ‘powers that be’ don’t know what else to do with them.
First we have ‘Mother’ aka. DCI Flora Malcolmson. She has had health issues recently and has been given the “Misfit mob” as a penance as she recuperates from a massive heart attack. Gruff and brusque, Mother’s demeanor masks a warm heart.
Then we have our protagonist Detective Constable Callum MacGregor. Callum lives with his girlfriend Elaine who is nine months pregnant and on maternity leave from Police Scotland. Callum has had a horrendous childhood. When he was a wee boy of five he was abandoned by his family at a roadside toilet. He spent his life ‘in care’ and always had the feeling that he was unlovable. A voracious reader, Callum is an all round good guy with the most appalling luck… Callum has been sent to the Misfit Mob due to the allegation that he compromised a crime scene. We know that he is innocent of these charges, but don’t find out the whole story right away.
Detective Constable John Watt known for his grumpy misdemeanor, has been transferred to the Misfit Mob after none of the other teams will work with him.
Detective Sergeant Andrew MacAdams is forty-two years old with terminal bowel cancer. He has only a short time to live, but soldiers on at work, preferring that to giving up and going in hospital. He is a favorite of ‘Mother’ and is constant tormenting Callum with innuendo about his prior disgrace. He is writing a novel and constantly spouts haiku and often talks in rhyme.
Detective Constable Rosalind Franklin, a beautiful black policewoman who has just joined the Misfit Mob after punching the superintendent of her old squad. (after he sexually harassed her)
Detective Sergeant Dorothy Hodgkin (Dotty) who is in a wheelchair after losing her leg in a high-speed police chase which ended in a crash.
It is autumn in Scotland, and every day seems to bring dour rain – which sets the mood for the novel nicely. The urban decay and poverty are very much in evidence. Along with them come the bleak and utter despair of some of the inhabitants. With subject matter that is at times grisly, the author has managed to intersperse enough levity that makes it palatable.
The Misfit Mob usually get all the boring cases that no one else wants. This is the case when a mummified body turns up at the local tip. Assuming the body has been stolen from a museum, they are tasked with the investigation. When another mummified body turns up in a car’s boot, and tests are done on the body, it is now apparent that these are not old bodies, but more recent deaths. The Misfit Mob have inadvertently stumbled upon a serial killer investigation!
“You’ll be a God and they’ll worship you”
They find that the killer first brines his victim to dehydrate them, then smokes them as you would fish. The reader is made aware that the killer wants to purify them so that they will achieve divinity… They are calling this case ‘Operation Imhotep’.
About half way through the novel the case is solved. But of course, that is impossible as there is still another half of the novel as yet unread. By about 55% in, I had it all figured out. Then about 75% in, I was sure I knew who the killer was. I was WRONG on both counts!
MacBride laced this novel with several astounding plot twists that took be aback. Despite the book’s 626 pages, I found that it was a fast read due to the fact that it never failed to hold my interest throughout. Highly recommended to fans of character-rich police procedurals and folks who relish ‘tartan noir’.
After reading this ‘standalone’ I found myself fervently wishing that it was the first in a series. I’d love to visit Mother’s Misfit Mob again…
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from HarperCollins via Edelweiss in consideration of my review.
The McRae novels have won him the CWA’s Dagger in the Library, the Barry Award for Best Debut Novel, and Best Breakthrough Author at the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards. In 2012 Stuart was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Hall of Fame.
Stuart’s other works include Halfhead, a near-future thriller, Sawbones, a novella aimed at adult emergent readers, and several short stories.
He lives in the north-east of Scotland with his wife, Fiona and cats, Grendel, Onion, and Beetroot.