Thursday, February 28, 2013

Birthdays for the Dead - Stuart MacBride

Another review this week that first appeared in Shelf Awareness. It's appearing here with their permission.

First line: "Flash."

Celebrating birthdays has never been scarier.

Detective Constable Ash Henderson lives in an ugly world. He is in debt to a loan shark, living in a housing development not fit for humans and he’s investigating the deaths of thirteen-year-old girls. Some psychopath is abducting girls right before their thirteenth birthdays. Each year the murderer finds a girl, tortures her to death on her birthday and then each subsequent year he sends a homemade “birthday card” to her parents. Each card is a picture of the torture process. Each year the picture gets progressively worse.

However, the ugliest part of Henderson’s world is a secret he keeps all to himself. His daughter Rebecca is one of the Birthday Boy’s victims. And he is determined to exact his revenge on the monster.

Best known for his Logan McRae series, Stuart Macbride has written a deliciously dark standalone thriller in Birthdays for the Dead. Henderson, the novel’s protagonist, straddles the line of good and evil, taking on all shades of gray. Neither easily likeable nor detestable, Henderson’s complexity challenges readers to empathize with him, to stand in his shoes and say, “what would I do?”

Henderson, a loner by nature, is forced to work with Alice McDonald, a young psychologist, as she compiles a profile of the killer. McDonald’s character softens Henderson’s rough edges and adds an element of humor to the otherwise sinister tone of the novel.

Birthdays for the Dead is highly suspenseful, chock full of plot twists. And like a scary movie, readers will likely find themselves desperate to look away, but the yearning to see what happens will hold them captive to the very end.

This was my first experience with Stuart MacBride's work and it was a great place to jump in since this particular book is a standalone. And yes, now I'm thoroughly hooked.  MacBride  has another book coming out in the U.S. in May, Close to the Bone. I think you can count on hearing from about that one as well.

Birthdays for the Dead is available in trade paperback (ISBN: 978-0007344208) from Harper; there is also a Harper Audio unabridged audio narrated by Ian Hanmore. It looks like it may be exclusive to Audible, but I'm not sure.


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