Birthdays for the Dead - Stuart MacBride

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.