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Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride
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Birthdays for the Dead (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Stuart MacBride

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1891062,490 (3.5)11
Member:Clair155
Title:Birthdays for the Dead
Authors:Stuart MacBride
Info:Harpercollins (2012), Hardcover, 496 pages
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Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride (2012)

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I am a long time fan of Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae series so was interested to see what he would do outside this franchise. Birthdays For the Dead is a psychological thriller that goes way out beyond the normal and delivers the darkest story I’ve yet read from this author. Unlike the McRae series, there wasn’t as much humor to balance the violence, and unlike McRae, the main character in this book is almost a psychopath himself and very difficult to relate to.

Although I do admit once this over-the-top story grabs you, it is impossible to put down. Like being unable to turn away from a car accident, this story details how a detective spirals out of control and apparently takes his more likeable but dysfunctional sidekick along with him. There is no road to redemption in this book it becomes simply a matter of holding on until the end.

Stuart MacBride knows how to keep his readers glued to the pages, but this book did have a fair number of plot holes and seemed a little unpolished. I am still a fan of his horrific, dark stories but would warn everyone that this particular book involves the torture of children and I wouldn’t suggest this as a place to start with this author. I understand there is a second book about these characters but I think it will be a long time before I am ready to read about them again. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Feb 9, 2016 |
I enjoy Stuart MacBride as an author. He has a good writing style and has a dark sense of humour. The narrator of this book was excellent.
This book, however, I just could not get into properly because of the constant violence and the nasty brutish behaviour of the protagonist, Ash Henderson. When he uses his brain and behaves like a detective, it becomes interesting. So often though, he just reacts in the most extreme way, without thinking, to so many situations. Actually, there's nasty, brutish behaviour by a lot of the characters in this book, not just the serial killer who's kidnapping young girls and killing them just before their 13th birthday.
There's a lovely little sidekick, Dr Alice McDonald, who has so many quirks you just love to see her in action.
But, other than her, this book didn't really appeal at all. ( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
The writing style of Stuart Macbride is such that you will either love or hate him. Birthdays for the Dead is the first in what I presume will be a series of novels featuring unorthodox and nonconformist detective constable Ash Henderson. The Birthday Boy has been kidnapping and murdering young girls for years and tormenting their families further by sending them pictures of the gruesome torture. Ash is assigned to resolve, but fails to mention to his superiors that his own daughter Rebecca vanished five years ago presumably a further victim of The Birthday Boy.

I don’t believe you read a novel by Stuart Macbride primarily for the plot and Birthdays for the Dead is no exception to this rule as the storyline although enjoyable is secondary to the characterization, style and sheer “in your face fun” of this wonderful read. The novel is interspaced with moments of great “Scottish” dry humour and interludes of extreme violence. The action, pace and rhythm is astounding and I found myself so caught up in the unique Stuart Macbride storytelling machine that I finished the 500 odd pages in two days! The ability to combine both humour and violence is almost a Macbride trade mark and Birthday for the Dead consumes the reader with this relentless style...”The photographer looked up from his viewfinder. Too slow. I smacked the flat of my hand against the lens, driving the whole camera into the hairy little sh**’s face. Crack- his head jerked back, a bead of scarlet glistening in one nostril. Weak chin, pointy nose, hairy hands, hairy head. Like someone had cross-bred a rat with a chimp and given it a top-of-the-range Canon digital camera.”.....

The reader is entertained with a never-ending cast of characters: the almost childlike exuberance of criminal psychologist Dr. Alice McDonald and her inability to appreciate the finer characteristics of a superior malt whiskey, the supercilious ramblings of Sensational Steve....”The conservatory glowed like a bonfire as the sun set. It was big enough for a baby grand piano, a leather sofa with matching armchairs, coffee table, a couple of large pot plants, and Sensational Steve’s ego”..., the evil intent and foulness of Mrs Kerrigan ...” A light clicked on above a featureless doorway and there she was: black suit with a red silk-shirt, golden crucifix resting in the wrinkled crease of her freckled cleavage. Her greying hair was piled up in a loose bun, curls escaping its grasp, waving in the breeze. Mrs Kerrigan smiled baring sharp little teeth”...

In the last quarter of the book a shocking revelation befalls Ash that sees him spiralling out of control as conventional policing fails and brutally and violence prevail. I was dragged alone in this rollercoaster game of cat and mouse and hoped against all the odds that constable Ash Henderson would attain some kind of peace and contentment.

This is edge of the seat writing of the finest, a blend of Scottish noir mixed with a type of western and gangster undertones. It is raw, in your face, brutal and yet retains a humour that only Stuart Macbride brings successfully to all his novels. It is truly a story that once started is impossible to put down and comes from me to you with a 5 star recommendation. ( )
  runner56 | Jan 14, 2016 |
Something went wrong in the reading universe a while ago and I missed that this had been sitting in the unread list, when I picked up and enjoyed the second in the series - A SONG FOR THE DYING.

Which weirdly turned out to be a good thing as an introduction to a new character and a new series, BIRTHDAYS FOR THE DEAD is not without problems.

MacBride is not the sort of writer who shilly-shally's around with reader sensitivies. So the fact the (fictional) victims here are children and the way that they die, and the torture inflicted on them and their families being particularly gruelling isn't really the issue (if you don't like graphic then you really shouldn't be reading MacBride's books). Nor is it a problem that Ash Henderson is a deeply flawed, odd sort of a character (if you don't like lunatic characters who come with a hefty dose of odd then you really shouldn't be reading MacBride's books). Alas the problems turned out to be considerably more fundamental. For a start Henderson refusing to acknowledge his very personal connection to these murders might have been in sync with a maverick sort of a personality, and yet, somehow it didn't come across as a personal vendetta, more a personal search for extreme punishment. Which was hard to read, hard to fathom, not so much hard to believe as hard to agree with. Add to that the slowness of the start and a certainly feeling of bogged down-ness which comes from Henderson's car crash life, and from the outset everything feels all out of wack.

Which isn't improved as things get more dire and somehow Henderson becomes less and less convincing. As he becomes less convincing his sidekick for this outing - the "delightfully quirky" psychologist who just simply never shuts up just becomes more and more pointless which also didn't help.

It's also much more obvious in the second book that what we have in Ash Henderson is a sort of anti-hero. A much different kettle of catfish than Logan from MacBride's other series after all, and that made sticking with this bloke, in this book a bit easier. Knowing he does eventually get his act together, and once the pace of the investigation improves and we get out from all the oh look at us stuff, then it certainly does start to show some glimmer of what is to come in the second book.

http://www.austcrimefiction.org/review/review-birthdays-dead-stuart-macbride ( )
  austcrimefiction | Nov 26, 2015 |
This book is told in the first person of DC Ash Henderson of the Oldcastle CID. He is not a nice person. In fact he a very bad person and totally unlikeable. He is the sort of police officer who gives other police officers a bad name. He shouldn't even be a police officer and should really be behind bars.

But he is not alone. A lot of the police in the story are bad and should be behind bars or anywhere else except in uniform. They are all unlikeable.

This is the tail end of murder hunt that has been going on for eight years and has claimed the lives of two of the psychologist working the case and several police. The serial killer has been active all the time but is good and has been able to elude any kind of suspicion.

I do think this book is a bit drawn out and the writing style annoying. There are too many three way conversations, two people on the phone and a third person interrupting, two people talking and the radio interrupting and any number of combinations. It got so annoying as to be distracting.

Otherwise, this is a gritting and slightly enjoyable read. ( )
  Balthazar-Lawson | Aug 28, 2013 |
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The gritty new standalone crime novel from the No. 1 bestselling author of Shatter the Bones and Dark Blood 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.… (more)

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