Okay, everybody who knows me will be tremendously surprised, but I have a quirk. I know. Who’d have thought it, right? I have a deep and endless fondness for cursing. I’m not a potty mouth myself. I say, “shit,” more than I should and occasionally drop the F-bomb, but for the most part I’m PG. Not because I have clean thoughts and certainly not because I don’t want to use salty language. I’m just not good at it. Inventive, imaginative, effective cursing is an artform. A talent. Maybe good cussers are born that way. Come popping out of the womb blistering the air blue and shocking the doctor into dropping them on their heads, giving them all the more reason to cuss.
That little quirk of mine accounts for part of the reason I love Stuart MacBride’s books.
The main reason is his characters, namely Logan McRae and DI Steel. Set in Aberdeen, Scotland, the series follows Logan as he solves crimes and takes crap. A lot of crap. Logan is a brilliant detective and a very good police officer. He doesn’t seem to know it. With the exception of DI Steel, nobody else seems to know it either. Logan is tough, clever, dogged and courageous. He’s the best on the force and he’s abused for it. That’s from his fellow police officers and superiors. He gets it even worse from the criminals. Throughout the series, Logan has been stabbed, pummeled, tossed, run over and wonked in the head so often it’s surprising he doesn’t have a TBI. Sometimes while reading I want to shout at MacBride, “Come on! Give that poor boy a break!” In Dark Blood, the novel I just finished, poor Logan has to deal with something worse than physical pain. He has to deal with disappointment and disillusionment. When Beardy Beattie, an idiot, is promoted to Detective Inspector over Logan, Logan is crushed. Poor guy thought merit counted for something. Welcome to the real world.
Then we have DI Steel. She’s homely, strange, outrageous, mean, insensitive and a little bit nuts. She’ll say anything to anyone at any time. She’s also the best cop on the force and the only one who understands and appreciates Logan. Not that he always appreciates her. Most of the time he’s at least a little afraid of her. She drives him crazy. He loves her a little bit, too.
DI Steel always gets the best lines:
She stuck a cigarette between her teeth and lit it, blowing out a mouthful of smoke that oozed across the windscreen. “Beattie’s a moron.”
Unbelievable. “How come when I say he’s an idiot I’ve got an attitude problem, but when you say it–“
Steel smacked the back of her hand against his chest. “Shhhh!”
“No. It’s one bloody rule for–“
She hit him again. “Down there, you twit.” She pointed through the snow at the main road, where a large Transit van was turning onto the farm track, bouncing and rolling along the icy, rutted surface. Steel fumbled with the handset again. “All teams, hold position. We’ve got visitors.”
“Sodding hell. I’m up to my tits in a snowdrift here.”
“I don’t care if you’re up to your tits in shark-infested tampons: keep your gob shut and your arse where it is!”
Or this bit:
“You’re a big, sodding, wet, Jessie bastard, you know that, don’t you?” Steel stomped to a halt at the Fiat’s rusty passenger door. “Couldn’t throw your weight around for two bloody minutes!”
“Did you see the size of him?” Logan stopped behind her, both hands held up like a surgeon, waiting for a nurse to glove him up. “He’d have torn my head off and crapped down the stump. Anyway, he knew we were police.”
“You’re such a girl.” She nodded her head at the car. “Well? Unlock the sodding thing: bloody freezing.”
Logan stuck one hip out. “Keys are in my front trouser pocket.”
She glanced down. “So?”
“You’re going to have to drive.”
Her top lip curled. “Aye, that’ll be shining. Detective Inspector, mind? You drive, I… passenge.”
“Can’t. Did the hostage trick when I shook hands with Baldy Andy. You need to bag my hands till we get back to the station.”
Steel took another look at his trousers. “I’m no’ going digging about in your breeks, what if you get a stiffy?”
“Just… don’t flatter yourself, okay?”
Funny as those bits are, the Logan MacRae novels are very dark, very violent. No punches pulled when it comes to the vicious crimes or the heartrending aftermaths the victims have to endure. So dark and violent, in fact, I doubt they’d be bearable without all the humor. MacBride is very funny. His characters are all memorable: DC Rennie, who I can’t stop picturing as Howdy Doody; Biohazard Bob, a man you do not want to be stuck with in a closed room (cauliflower chips? I don’t know what those are, but you don’t want Biohazard Bob eating them); Colin the journalist; Samantha, Logan’s goth girlfriend; and many many more.
If crime fiction is your thing, read Stuart MacBride. If you share my fondness for inventive language and dirty talk, read his books twice. You’ll love them.