Title: Birthdays for the Dead
Author: Stuart MacBride
First Published: January 2012
No .of pages: 496
Synopsis (from Amazon):
Detective Constable Ash Henderson has a dark secret…
Five years ago his daughter, Rebecca, went missing on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. A year later the first card arrived: homemade, with a Polaroid picture stuck to the front – Rebecca, strapped to a chair, gagged and terrified. Every year another card: each one worse than the last.
The tabloids call him The Birthday Boy. He’s been snatching girls for twelve years, always in the run-up to their thirteenth birthday, sending the families his homemade cards showing their daughters being slowly tortured to death.
But Ash hasn’t told anyone about Rebecca’s birthday cards – they all think she’s just run away from home – because if anyone finds out, he’ll be taken off the investigation. And he’s sacrificed too much to give up before his daughter’s killer gets what he deserves…
Ash Henderson isn’t a bad cop; he’s one of the good guys, but if there’s a bad way to do something for the right reasons, he’ll find it. He’d never take a bribe, but it’s not unusual for him to put the squeeze on the bad guys to get something out of a situation for him, and he tends to mix with a crowd that means he’s permanently in a sticky situation. In short, he’s a complete screw-up. Despite all this, there’s something very likeable about this train wreck of a man. He’s fiercely loyal and protective of his family and friends, and will put himself on the line every time to help them. Unfortunately, putting yourself on the line so often means you often cross it…
MacBride is astute when it comes to complex and flawed characters, and they add to his equally complex plotting, making the implausible very plausible and seemingly inevitable. He also has a wonderfully gritty way with gore – it’s visceral and real to the very end, without tipping over into the territory of schlock horror.
This one, however, felt a little rougher around the edges than the Logan McRae novels, a little harder-edged and unpolished in comparison. That’s not to say it was bad – it’s very good, just not as good as the McRae books, but then, they’re pretty hard to beat.
If you’re a fan of crime fiction (in particular Scottish crime fiction), this is a must for your collection.
Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite