Tuesday, 17 July 2012

BLOOD TEARS by Michael Malone - a review

BLOOD TEARS by Michael Malone
I have no idea what they put in the water right up north of the border in bonny Scotland, but whatever it is, the Old Country turns out crime writers by the bucket-load. The latest in a long and distinguished line is Michael Malone. I recently read his debut novel BLOOD TEARS. And here's my review. 

But first, the blurb  . . .

THE BLURB
A body is discovered: the terrible mutilations spell out the wounds of the Stigmata. For Glasgow DI Ray McBain, the killings are strangely familiar... and then the dreams begin. The first in a series of books featuring DI Ray McBain, a Glasgow detective who has too many friends in the underworld for his own good, but enough to support him when he goes on the run, the main suspect in a murder case. Scottish noir at its best.

THE REVIEW
Blood Tears begins with the killer's eye view of  a particularly gruesome murder of an old man.

In the next scene we move to Edinburgh Detective Inspector DI McBain in a pub with his team, celebrating another case sewn up. DI McBain narrates the vast majority of the book. He is a good-humoured, self-effacing sort - a detective of the old school. His team are brilliantly drawn and assembled by Malone, making for a strong supporting cast in a cracker of a book. What Malone does so brilliantly is stretch the first person narration technique to a point where DI McBain leaps off the page straight into the reader's head. And that's not an easy thing to do. As the murders continue, and the religious aspect of the crimes becomes obvious - the victims all stigmatered up, as it were - we think this is a case DI McBain can really get his teeth into . . . until the dreams begin . . . Feathers and blood and an old man pleading for his life . . .

And when DI McBain's closest colleague discovers Ray has been witholding evidence vital to the case, she has no choice but to bring it to the powers that be. So we follow Ray on the run from his own Force, suspected of murder, and only Kenny, his old schoolfriend - now Underworld face - to protect him.

Ray begins to unravel before our very eyes. But he is so likeable still. And that is the beauty of this book - it's power. The more Ray McBain seems like he has more of a part to play in the crimes than is at first obvious, the more vulnerable he becomes. It leaves the reader having to deal with the prospect that a character that has made them laugh, made them cry, made them feel, could have committed these horrendously violent acts. But Malone has written this character so brilliantly, we just hope beyond hope Ray really is as innocent as he believes. Then there comes the point in the book where Ray himself begins to doubt even his own innocence, and at that point I realised how completely taken in I was by this book. I panicked. Wobbled. I thought, no, Ray, don't do this to me. But Malone's writing had left me little choice but to side with DI McBain, come what may.

And when the ending came, well, you'll have to read the book to find that one out . . .

This book had me gripped by the throat from first page to last.

An absolute stunner.

Blood Tears is available in paperback and Kindle editions  from Amazon UK here

and from Amazon US here

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