There are opinions aplenty splashed around, but All That’s Dead isn’t really about the debate over Scottish independence (neither side comes off well). In truth, the novel is about people and relationships – from the tensions of Haiden and Mhari, to McRae’s dealings with junior colleagues which are filled with affectionate humour. More specifically, it’s about peer pressure and getting out of your depth, and the fact that while you can spend your life trying to do good to make up for all your long-buried bad choices, they will not stay hidden forever. And most of all, with terrifying realism, it’s about the excuses people will find to justify their actions.
We’ve had a slew of dysfunctional detectives and industrial-strength mayhem in recent years (not least from MacBride himself), and while the delivery of such elements in All That’s Dead may seem less compulsively nasty than previous outings for his rough-edged Aberdeen copper Logan McRae, readers should not be lured into a false sense of security...Fellow Tartan Noir writer Ian Rankin has similarly tackled the divisive issue of Scottish independence, and like his colleague, MacBride’s use of the theme is never meretricious.