Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride

read by Ian Hanmore

If you like your crime dramas Scottish, grim and dark, and full of unspeakable horrors, Birthdays for the Dead is as Scottish and shocking as you can get.

Detective Constable Ash Henderson is brutal, hard-nosed and very, very compromised. He owes money to sadistic gangsters, lives in condemned social housing and does not flinch in meting out his own kind of justice to get what he wants. Five years ago, his daughter, Rebecca, went missing, just before her thirteenth birthday. On the anniversary of her abduction, a home-made card arrives with a Polaroid picture of the girl, strapped to a chair, gagged and terrified. Every year there comes another card, each one worse than the last.

This serial killer has the tabloid moniker ‘The Birthday Boy’, and he has been taking young girls for twelve years, always just before their thirteenth birthday, and sending the families cards showing their daughters being slowly tortured to death. Ash has concealed Rebeccas cards from his ex-wife and colleagues, because if they find out he will be taken off the case. And he has vowed to let his daughter’s killer get everything that is coming to them. Criminal psychologist Dr Alice MacDonald, with her curly brown hair, jeans and red Converse Hi-tops, may want save his soul, but it’s one hell of a bumpy ride.

Stuart MacBride’s writing is unceasingly violent and will not be to everyone’s taste, despite the apparent satire at its evil heart. But there is no denying that Ian Hanmore manages to make Birthdays for the Dead a hugely diverting schlockfest of Grand Guignol.

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