Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: A Dark So Deadly


Source: Goodreads


Length: 608 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

DC Callum MacGregor is the latest addition to the Misfit Mob – the department where Police Scotland sends those officers that it can’t fire, but don’t want either. MacGregor does not deserve to be part of the Mob. But that’s only the beginning of his problems. He’s assigned to finding out which museum lost the ancient mummy that they found at Oldcastle tip. But then he discovers a connection between the mummy and three missing young men. The Misfit Mob manages to hold on to the case, and the disreputed department becomes the only thing standing between a serial killer and his next victim. With his professional life just about holding up, MacGregor dives head first into the case. Until a blast from the past changes everything. Questioning everything he’s ever known, MacGregor has to balance his search for a killer with the chaos of his crumbling personal life. Every step takes him closer to answers he may not like, and dangers he may not be able to avoid. As he watches his own life careen out of control, MacGregor realizes that things around him are just not as they seem. And by the time he learns the truth, it may be too late.

My take:

I had very high expectations from A Dark So Deadly. I’ve only read one other book by Stuart MacBride – Halfhead – and had absolutely loved it (read my review here). That’s why I was waiting with bated breath for the time that I’d get my hands on A Dark So Deadly. Unfortunately, the book didn’t really meet the anticipation I’d built up.

It definitely has a lot of things going for it. The story itself is really interesting and multi-layered. It isn’t a simple serial killer story. Instead, it takes multiple points of view, moves between the past and present, and explores a lot of storylines. They even leave you guessing how different things are related, which adds to the entire suspense element. It also has some really surprising elements – twists and turns you just would not see coming. Added to that is MacBride’s quirky sense of humor that comes through in narrative and dialog. At the same time, he does not shy away from making things as graphic as they need to be, which adds the right amount of thrill.

His characterization is excellent. Each person is well defined, has his or her own quirks, and has their own personality that comes through in action and dialog. Looked at from that perspective, there is great finesse in the delivery of the story.

However, the book also has a lot of things that just do not work for it. For starters, there are just so many characters. With a book that is already chaotic by design (it’s supposed to be a bit messed up given its genre), it doesn’t help that names are constantly added to an already lengthy list. And it definitely doesn’t help when a briefly mentioned name reappears only 200 pages later and starts playing a big role. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, especially if you take even a day-long break from reading.

Another thing that got really annoying were some of the characters themselves. I’m not sure if they were meant to be endearingly quirky. All they ended up being were borderline annoying.

The main thing, though, was that the book could have been shorter by just a bit. You can even make peace with the fact that it’s over 600 pages long. Except, the end feels like MacBride kind of got bored writing and so hurriedly completed it.

A lot of the story is actually left incomplete. You don’t know what happens to certain characters because the last time they’re mentioned is on sort of a cliffhanger. And when you’ve invested yourself into 600 pages, you want those extra few pages to tie things up into a neat little bow.

All the characters actually show great progression over the book. But the abrupt end leaves you wondering just what the heck happened! I mean, there’s more to a murder mystery than finding out who the killer is, right? I just hope that MacBride decides to turn the Misfit Mob into a series so that we can see how the characters continue to develop and address their many problems that have only begun in this book.

All in all, A Dark So Deadly is a good option in the genre of serial killer crime fiction. It is multi-layered, humorous, interesting, and has that typical Scottish vibe to it that makes you pick up a MacBride book in the first place. It could have been better, but still enjoyable and not something that would make you feel like you wasted your reading time.

I’d recommend it to:

  • fans of crime fiction, especially the serial killer sub-genre
  • fans of Scottish and British novels
  • fans of Stuart MacBride

Read A Dark So Deadly? Let us know what you thought of it, and this review, in the comments below.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: Halfhead (By Stuart B. MacBride)

Halfhead Source: Goodreads
Source: Goodreads

Length: 376 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Glasgow, in the not-too distant future, is a divided city with one side living a normal life and the other crumbling under its own weight. But criminals are treated no different, wherever they may come from. Surgically mutilated and lobotomized, they are left without a lower jaw, feeding off IVs, and spending the days doing menial labor – a stark reminder for all to see that crime does not pay. Fulfilling a punishment some deem worse than death, the halfheads live the rest of their lives without reprieve and without any chance of being really human again.

Except for Dr. Fiona Westfield. One of the most terrifying serial killers to feed off the inhabitants of Glasgow, Dr. Westfield was apprehended by William Hunter and faced the same procedure as every other criminal. But now, she’s waking up. And she wants more than to be human again. She wants revenge.

Westfield’s arrest helped Hunter become Assistant Network Director, the youngest man to hold the post. But even his skills fall short when he begins to investigate a routine murder in Glasgow’s south side that lands him in the middle of a conspiracy. It has been eleven years since the VR riots that killed millions of people and left Hunter with nightmares that continue to this day. And now it seems like someone is trying to start the riots again. Caught between the terrifying memories of the past and the growing danger of the present, Hunter is slowly running out of time. And finally facing his past may be the only way for him to have a future.

My take:

Halfhead, simply put, is a gory, chilling, fast paced crime thriller. It’s set in a slightly futuristic time, but it isn’t really Sci-Fi and it surely isn’t for the faint of heart.

MacBride leaves no stone unturned in depicting the deepest of evil that there can be in human beings. He puts together a grotesque, vivid picture that can become too much to take for some. But, he also keeps the story moving relentlessly. It takes a few pages for the reader to really get a grasp of what’s happening because it starts right off, but then it keeps you hooked. The entire picture falls into place slowly, with each piece giving you a better understanding of the characters not by description, but by action. Old relationships become clear, new ones develop, and you begin to feel for the characters, one way or another. In spite of its gore, the book also has some light moments, brought forth by characters you really begin to like. Secondary characters play really important roles, even if they’re tiny ones, and they all add to the bigger picture.

The story itself is really interesting. It develops on diverse yet parallel lines that all come together slowly. And I found it to be quite reminiscent of Karl Urban’s film, Dredd. There are many things that are very similar to today’s time, leaving you with a sense of familiarity even though you’re reading about a time that’s in the future. And, although set in a futuristic time where weapons and medicine seem to be the most changed, the story sticks to the thriller genre, giving you enough reason to remain at the edge of your seat and even cringe in shock. The changes brought on by time just seem to be another part of the environment in which the book is set, and one which is very easy to accept as a given. And the end is something that will surely catch you by surprise.

Halfhead is a perfect read for people who love the older works of James Patterson such as Pop Goes the Weasel and who can tolerate gore that can get quite horrific (there are still certain images I’m trying to get out of my head with little success). If crime thriller is your genre, then this book is a must read. It is the first of MacBride’s attempts at a futuristic world setting and I’m hoping not the last. But, whether he’s written more or is writing more in this particular genre, I’m hooked onto his work already. I’ll surely be reading a lot more of Stuart MacBride’s work, futuristic and otherwise, and all the while hoping that he chooses to write a sequel for Halfhead. It is a stand alone read, but one that will leave you wanting to explore more of Glasgow of the future and the fight for peace in a world of chaos!

– Rishika