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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Flesh House by Stuart MacBride (Logan McRae, #4) - Book Review

4/5 Stars

Panic strikes the Granite City...

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Edition: Paperback
Pages: 595
Chapters: 63 (Plus a sort of prologue and an epilogue.)
Publisher: Harper

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

Do you enjoy your meat? 

Are you contemplating trying the vegetarian lifestyle? 

Then read Stuart MacBride's Flesh House, a novel I promise will have you racing for the nearest toilet to throw up that meaty dish you just had! 

Wow... MacBride is known for his dark, gritty and gruesome stories but Flesh House really takes the cake. The vivid visuals and disgusting descriptions he gives you really are something. A stomach churning journey into a terrifying crime thriller that verges on hopping over into the horror genre. The plot is hooking; the characters are fantastic; and MacBride's writing is enviously top-notch. 

But this entry to the series does have a few drawbacks. The length and some of the scenes really hamper the flow, and some areas have a rich and desolate history, while others seem to be sadly scarce. 

SPOILER WARNING

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

A savage serial killer has returned to the streets of the Granite City.
A ruthless monster who kills, skins and eats its victims.
It leaves no evidences of itself, other than homes covered in blood.
DS Logan McRae is on the case, but things just seem to go from bad, to worse.
The killer has introduced its victims' meat into Aberdeen's food chain.
And everyone could be munching human flesh...

Plot - 4/5 Stars

MacBride starts Flesh House in a horrifying way. The beginning reminiscent of the slasher genre. The terrifying tone is only heightened by the author's inclusion of newspaper articles. These are littered throughout the novel's entirety, and they're a unique and fantastic way of making DS Logan McRae's world all the more real and threatening. 

This entry is a lot more streamlined in terms of caseload. Its main focus is The Flesher - the villain getting its name from the collective term for butchers - and it sticks closely to it. Events from the previous book, Broken Skin, pop up and affect both the plot and characters, but the author skillfully manages to keep everything contained. You don't have to read any of the previous novels to enjoy this one.

Also new, and great, is the focus on Heather, a victim being kept alive by The Flesher. It adds a new perspective of terror to the story. The things we learn from her, her descent into madness, the shocking twist surrounding her near the end, it's all equal parts riveting, horrifying and sickening. 

There are some fantastically smart twists throughout that grab and hold your attention, and the culmination of the story is tense and action-packed. The ending itself will probably divide opinion, as it has mine, but I'm nevertheless excited to see how it factors in with future instalments.

There are some unnecessary scenes that feel like fluff; extra padding to prolong the plot. I'm also a little lost in terms of motive for the killer. We get an excellent backstory, one that explains quite a bit, but not the murderer's endgame. I'm still unsure what this person tried to accomplish, or their reasoning behind it. It could be that I've missed something - God, I hope not - or that the open-kinda ending means my answers will come later. 

So I guess I'll see.

Pace - 4/5 Stars

The main thing messing with the flow of the story is the padding. It makes the plot a little long-winded, and can pull the reader from the incredibly immersive qualities the book has.

Otherwise, MacBride is as addictive as ever. 

Characters - 4.5/5 Stars

The cast is pretty much what you already know. Flesh House manages to make the case feel more personal, especially to some individuals, and that changes the dynamics in ways future instalments are going to show. 

DS McRae: Smart, moral, dedicated. He seems to be the only officer of the law doing any real investigative work. Events in Broken Skin resurface and change his relationships in this entry. 

DI Steel: Still hilarious, intelligent, foul-mouthed and lazy, but would we have her any other way? She's the source of most of the black comedy, and it's a highlight of the story.

DI Insch: Insch goes through the most development and changes within Flesh House. And they're pretty drastic events that leave both his life and future career hanging by a thread. 

The Flesher: Creepy, with a capital C, with bold and italics. MacBride does a stellar job of creating this imposing and invincible foe. This is one villain that will haunt your dreams. 

Those are my favourite characters, but the author's cast is becoming more and more familiar. Individuals that I wasn't too keen on before are shooting up my list, and the diversity and uniqueness is far more acute.

Writing - 5/5 Stars

Perfect, in my opinion. Stuart MacBride is a master of this genre, heck, of storytelling in general. The way he plays with readers' expectations is jaw-dropping, and the gritty realness he imbues every page with will give you shivers of delight and disgust.

Overall - 4/5 Stars

Flesh House won't be for everyone. The bloody and gruesome aspects of the story push at your boundaries of what you can take. 

But, as is becoming standard from the author, it's one helluva journey with one helluva cast.


Previous Instalment: Broken Skin
Next Instalment: Blind Eye


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