Review: Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride

Stuart MacBride leans heavily on both action and dialogue when constructing his stories, which gives an immersive feel without a lot of tell narrative and keeps the pages turning. One of the best things about this is that it really feels like you step into Logan McRae’s life for this particular, story, and that McRae’s world existed before you got there and continues after you’ve left.

There’s no info-dumping, no pages of backstory. And that means that the reader is right in the thick of the action from the start, as MacBride weaves multiple plot lines together to tell his compelling story.

MacBride also approaches police work from a realistic perspective. There are multiple investigations; cops rarely get to focus on one thing exclusively, and they aren’t afforded that luxury in MacBride’s fictional world, either.

While there are also personal factors affecting McRae’s life, MacBride doesn’t let him spend pages worrying about his life and feeling sorry for himself. You get the sense that McRae is pushing everything into different corners, getting on with work and the cases at hand as he can, and trying to handle it all without having everything come tumbling down. We feel the challenges he’s facing and the complexity of his situation as his personal and professional lives both take a toll and he simply tries to hold it together and be effective on the job.

One of the best aspects of these books is that the author doesn’t make the mistake of projecting or finding ways to drop in extra information. We know what McRae knows, which makes every revelation and discovery a genuine surprise. You get a very immersive feeling this way, because you see how it would be for a cop in his shoes, learning as he goes, always having to be alert and ready for surprises.

MacBride trusts his readers to be smart and pick up the pieces and play along. When I first read it I thought it was a refreshing approach in a genre where clues are sometimes highlighted and underscored.

Broken Skin is a fantastic novel, and true fans of police procedurals won’t be disappointed.

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