Scottish author Stuart MacBride's fifth Aberdeen crime thriller, Blind Eye, chronicles tensions between Polish immigrants and the locals.

How realistic is the tension between the Aberdonians and the Polish immigrants in Blind Eye?

How realistic is the tension between the Aberdonians and the Polish immigrants in Blind Eye?

We've always had a lot of people coming to work in the oil industry or going to the universities, but this is the first time we've had enough of one group, the Poles, to form their own community. People whined that you couldn't get a pint in certain pubs anymore because the Polish owners wouldn't serve locals. When I started researching Blind Eye, I spoke to Polish shopkeepers and pub owners, and it was all a load of old bollocks. These people came all the way from Poland looking for a better life—there was no way in hell they'd turn away good money. It was just idiots stirring up trouble, playing the “us” and “them” game. I wanted to reflect that kind of half-witted bigotry in the book.

The Aberdeen of your books seems like a hotbed for killers.

If you count up the number of Edinburghers murdered in Ian Rankin's books, Aberdeen still has a lot of catching up to do. But according to the Scottish government's crime figures, Aberdeen murders more people (per million head of capita) than England and Wales combined. Scarier still, we attempt to murder about 26 times more people than we actually manage.

Since Scottish cops don't carry guns, does this affect the violence you depict?

In Scotland, knives are the weapon of choice for most criminals. Grampian Police have a very strict antigun policy, so if you use a firearm to threaten someone, they'll throw a hell of a lot of resources at catching you. When gangs come up from places like Manchester where gun violence is a lot more common, they know not to screw around, or they're likely to get caught, which is why there are so few gunfights in my books.

Despite the grisly subject matter, you always manage to inject a bit of humor. How do you juggle the two?

With police officers, the more grisly the scene, the more likely they are to be cracking jokes. It's a coping mechanism. And given the kind of horrors I inflict on them, the humor tends to be very dark indeed. I've worked in teams all my adult life—as a graphic designer and for a huge multinational IT company—so when I started writing about the police I just made them talk and behave like the teams I'd worked in. So it's nothing clever or deep, it's just me ripping off real life. And twisting it a bit.