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08 October 2015

Stuart MacBride: Flesh House

Shades of Hannibal Lecter
Warning - a lot of this book is not for the weak at heart or sensitive reader. It contains some of the most grisly scenes of any book I have read, including murder, dismemberment, and cannibalism.

I have been a great fan of Stuart MacBride's earlier books in the Logan Macrae series, but this one was difficult to take. All of the old characters are there, Macrae, his former girlfriend "ball-buster" PC Jackie Watson, sweet eating DCI Inch and foul-mouthed lesbian DCI Steel. The great répartit and "camaraderie" of the Aberdeen police force that makes this series different are there, but this is overwhelmed by the crimes they are fighting - slaughter, butchery, and cannibalism.

The story starts out with the discovery of human remains being shipped as chilled meat to an offshore oil-rig. The story then builds to the chase to catch the serial killer, nicknamed "Flesher", an old Scots term for butcher. Flesher is always one jump ahead of the police and the kill list expands as he slaughters his victims with a bolt gun which was used in abattoirs to stun animals before they were killed and dismembers the corpses. The story also has some gruesome scenes from an abattoir where human remains are mixed with animal meat.

Despite this MacBride continues to deliver some amusing sidelights. DI Steel is worried because her girlfriend wants to get married, and DI Inch gets fatter by the day. Even the Flesher has a comic side, always appearing wearing a Margaret Thatcher Haloween mask.

Stuart MacBride had been one of my favourite UK police/crime writers. Many writers of successful long-running series turn to extreme plots to keep a series alive but as Flesh House is only #4 in the series I wonder why MacBride took this step when the series didn't need such a distraction. It has made me think again about reading further books in the series, but I probably will because his other books were so good and hopefully the later ones will be better than this one.

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