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Author: Stuart MacBride

Title: Shatter the Bones

Publisher: HarperCollins

Hardback: 438 pages

ISBN: 978-0-00-734421-5

Price: £14.99

Publication Date: 06/01/2011

I’m sure that I’m not alone in having [very occasionally, obviously!] secretly wished for some sort of misfortune to befall the more ‘annoying’ participants on the numerous reality television shows that now seem to be everywhere. However, after reading Stuart MacBride’s latest DS Logan McRae novel, Shatter the Bones, I don’t think that I’ll be able to think nasty thoughts about people on reality shows again [although, thinking about it . . . !].

For the novel revolves around the kidnapping and ransom of Alison and Jenny McGregor – a mother-daughter singing sensation on the wildly popular television show Britain’s Next Big Star. A ransom note informs the police that the pair will be released if enough money is raised by the deadline. Fail to comply and they will be executed. And to prove that they mean business, the kidnappers send the police a grisly warning – Jenny’s dismembered toe. Could it be a macabre publicity stunt? With time running out, little in the way of evidence or leads to go on and pressure from the media to contend with, McRae and his team find themselves facing an uphill struggle to solve the case before it’s too late.

The novel itself offers a critique on a number of contemporary concerns, including the interference of the press and society’s obsession with celebrity [candle-lit vigils and fanatical fans surrounding the police station, waving badly-spelt placards]. And one of the book’s most hilarious attacks on celebrity occurs when Robbie Williams and Katie Melua join together to sing a tribute song for the missing Alison and Jenny – a moment that is both laugh-out-loud funny and a subtly vicious representation of the way in which contemporary British society is happy to commodify the grief and suffering of others.

But, it has to be said, that this is one of the few moments of humour in Shatter the Bones [well, quite frankly, with a title like that you know it isn’t going to be a barrel of laughs!]. For the subject matter and general grimness of the book is such that even MacBride, an author known for his use of gallows-humour, struggles to inject many laughs into the proceedings.

One person who does manage to be a source of consistent wit is DI Steel, a character who just keeps on improving and stealing-the-show with each successive novel in the series. And the characterization in Shatter the Bones remains as strong and realistic as I have come to expect from MacBride’s novels.

With its almost unrelentingly dark subject matter and extreme violence, this book will probably not appeal to everyone. However, if you like your tartan crime to be of the very noir variety then Shatter the Bones is most definitely for you. To bastardise the title of a well-known reality ‘talent’ show – Stuart MacBride’s Got Talent!!

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