Outlander (Outlander I) – Diana Gabaldon

Outlander1OutlanderClaire Beauchamp Fraser is a nurse who has just been through World War II. She goes on a second honeymoone to the Scottish Highlands with her husband, a man she has met for only a few days during the war years. As she touches a stone in an ancient standing stone formation, she is transported back in time to the 1740s, a time which in Scotland was characterized by the Jacobite uprisings. She finds herself abducted by a band of Highland men and taken to Castle Leoch, where the locals are highly suspicious of her claims to be a woman of fine birth who has been robbed by highwaymen.

Despite the painstaking historical detail and the romantic nature of the setting, I found myself rapidly bored with this book. The use of the first person voice only works for me if the narrator is at least somewhat self-deprecating; preferably even snarky. Claire is neither of these things, and she comes off as quite a bit too serious. The romantic bent of the novel is also too strong, with Claire almost instantly attracted to the rugged Jaime, a handsome outlaw with a quiet demeanor and a well-muscled body. I gave up after a hundred pages or so.


Cold Granite – Stuart MacBride

A serial killer is on the loose in Aberdeen (the one in Scotland), and our hero Detective Sergeant Logan McRae is on the case. He is just back from leave after being badly stabbed in the belly. He is working for the constantly candy eating Detective Inspector Insch.

The afterword ends with “Aberdeen’s really not as bas as it sounds. Trust me.” I certainly hope so. It sounds like a grey, wet, frozen hellhole full of criminals and never-have-beens with no future in the book. The views into people’s seemingly hopeless, prospectless, grey lives don’t help.

This is a very competent police procedural. The characters are excellently fleshed out, colourful and quirky. Logan McRae himself is by no means perfect and does not always do the right thing. In fact he is full of insecurities. MacBride’s prose is packed with sarcastic and colorful understatement that made this reader chuckle. The one gripe I have is that there are perhaps a few too many twists. Certainly the portrayal of police work as tedious and repetitive seems much closer to the truth than the streamlined view of anything on small or big screen. Our hero’s life is dullness and mind numbing tedium, punctuated by moments of action and terror. Not to mention an amazingly unhealthy lifestyle of broken sleep and terrible eating habits.