Shatter The Bones by Stuart MacBride

ShatterAlison and Jenny McGregor are the media darlings of Aberdeen. A local mother and young daughter, they are destined to go far on Britain’s Next Big Star, the latest smash-hit television talent show. But someone sees a way of making money for themselves – and kidnaps Alison and Jenny, demanding millions in ransom. The nation is charged with raising the millions of ransom money for their newest favourite celebrities and the media is going crazy with the coverage.

The Aberdeen police force, including DS Logan McRae, are under ever-increasing pressure to find the pair before the ransom deadline, but they have nothing to go on – the kidnappers are somehow leaving no forensic traces. And then a toe arrives in the mail…

The seventh in MacBride’s Logan McRae series – I’ve reviewed his excellent stand-alone Birthdays for the Dead on the blog but not one from this series. That’s partly because, for me, the series started off very strong but seemed to be waning a bit by book six. But as I said, I loved Birthdays for the Dead, so figured it was time to check in on Logan again. But was it worth it?

Oh yes. Most definitely.

How can I put this best? This was a bloody fantastic read – unputdownable, in fact. I’ve been carrying my Kindle around with me the past few days, reading snatches of the book whenever I can. And as soon as I finished it, I’ve got straight down to blogging about it.

Other authors take note – it’s perfectly possible to write a police procedural, give some of the villains page-time, and still make a mystery of it. And a mystery which, while not littered with clues like a Christie or a Carr, has one thing staring you in the face that the importance of you will miss. I guarantee it.

The book is filled with detailed dark characters on both sides of the law (I did like the wonderfully named Biohazard Bob in particular, a less-than sanitary policeman) and Logan McRae is an amazing complex one – a stunningly flawed individual who you cannot help but siding with. The ending of the book is simply heartbreaking and I cannot wait to see where we go from here.

I’m going to say nothing more about the plot, but massive bonus points are awarded for the pseudonyms of the villains – regular blog readers will know why. And on the off-chance readers are easily offended, I should say that it’s a bit sweary in places. And a lot sweary in most of the other places.

So, a police procedural, a thriller and a mystery. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, then I heartily recommend this book. One of the best things I’ve read this year – and I’ve read a lot.

I bought this book myself and I’ll be buying the next one soon as well.


  1. I read the first two of this series and did not like the 2nd one at all. But I still have Broken Skin and Flesh House (#3 and 4) so maybe I will give those a try, then jump to this one.


  2. I read the sample at and I feel that anyone requiring a crash course in swear words should definitely read this book!
    After reading the sample, I was initially not inclined to read the book. However, I am intrigued by your statement, “And a mystery which, while not littered with clues like a Christie or a Carr, has one thing staring you in the face that the importance of you will miss. I guarantee it.” Hence I will have a go at it.


      • I have finished reading this book.
        In my opinion, it is too long and heavily padded. The book could be easily shortened by at least 100 pages.
        Initially, the reading was slow, since I struggled to understand the Police jargon and the Scottish dialect and I had to google search to understand the terms. The speed picked up as I became familiar with the terms and during the second half of the book, the reading was very fast due to the suspense.
        The book shows the Aberdeen Police as a bunch of bumbling cops who indulge most of the time in coarse talk and behavior. Consider this—- a woman DI gets the bedroom of a widow searched and then expresses surprise that there is no dildo or vibrator. This type of coarse talk and behavior is present throughout the book.
        There are several gruesome scenes. The book is certainly not for the squeamish.
        I agree that the mystery element is quite good. As you have mentioned there is a significant clue(?) the importance of which will be missed because it will be regarded as a coincidence if spotted.
        However, because of the overdose of profanity, coarseness, violence and gruesomeness, I will not return to this author.


      • It’s odd – there are certain authors where I’ve stopped reading due to gruesomeness. It’s almost always graphic descriptions of sexual violence or point of view scenes from the killer describing that sort of thing. The sort of stuff in this book didn’t bother me, although I can see why it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. And yes, it’s not a realistic potrayal of the police – but it’s not supposed to be.


      • Stuart MacBride is definitely improving as a writer, and actually I quite like the profanity and gruesomeness. It rarely feels gratuitous.

        But I think his characterization is too simplistic for the length of his books. And when he makes a concerted effort to create secondary characters with depth, I find he just ends up contradicting himself (like the young psychologist in Birthdays for the Dead, who had interesting scenes, but made no sense at all in retrospect).

        I agree with Santosh: every book of his I’ve read has felt at least 25% too long. There’s nothing wrong with characters who are mostly just one step removed from stereotype, or two unlikely stereotypes jammed together; that’s a very useful technique for sketching someone interesting but accessible without getting bogged down, especially if characterization isn’t the focus. It’s Carr and Christie’s stock in trade, after all. But they were writing 50-60,000 word books. Once you’re breaking 100,000, I think you need to either bring in a ruthless editor or have something original to say. Preferably both!


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