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Birthdays for the Dead (Ash Henderson #1)

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  1,743 ratings  ·  267 reviews
The tabloids call him the Birthday Boy. He snatches girls just before their 13th birthdays. One year later the family get a homemade card in the post - 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!' scrawled in blood-red ink above a Polaroid photograph of the missing girl. Detective Constable Ash Henderson is seconded to the investigation.Shortlisted for the Specsavers Bestseller Dagger.
Hardcover, 472 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by HarperCollins (first published 2012)
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Best Thrillers
260th out of 350 books — 584 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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James Thane
This is a relentlessly dark book featuring a very flawed protagonist. A serial killer is stalking twelve-year-old girls in Scotland. He abducts the children a few days before their thirteenth birthdays, then tortures them over a period of days, killing them on their birthdays. Every year thereafter, he sends a "birthday" card to the parents, with a Polaroid photo attached, showing their daughter's progressive torture and ultimate death.

The newspapers call the killer the "Birthday Boy," and DC A
Vikki Petraitis
Ahhhh, Stuart. You have to give the reader something to hold on to, and your dark-to-laughs ratio has to be even. If you kill your protagonist's older daughter, you have to leave the other one alone. Got about a third through and couldn't keep going. In saying this, it is with a heavy heart because I LOVE Stuart MacBride and have read all of his Logan McRae novels. He is a brilliant writer and usually has an amazing mix of dark and humor. His Inspector Steele is without literary peer.
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 h
Julie Chamay
I had a hard time even finishing this book.

The main plot about the serial killer is remotely interesting, but all the subplots are superfluous, when not completely unbelievable. The main character (narrator) is entangled in a lot of complex stories, but he remains shallow and is absolutely not credible. Other characters are caricatural, and none of them is likable either.

A lot of the times, you don't even understand what's going on in the story, it is so messy!

I finished it in a hurry just to k
Ash Henderson is a tough cop who doesn't follow the rules. He owes some bad people a buttload of money.

Alice McDonald is a "delightfully quirky" (her own words) superintelligent psychologist who talks. A lot.

Some 13-year-olds get kidnapped, abducted, and photographed into birthday cards for their parents. It's up to Alice and Ash to--

Fuck, dude! How did MacBride get this premise past the drawing board? The most interesting part of the story was my mental image of a girl who'd been decapitated an
I actually preferred this book to the later Logan McRae novels. Ash Henderson is as ruthless as the criminals he hunts. In debt to some nasty people, dating a pole dancer, and pretty quick to maim anyone he suspects of harming his daughter, this was a gritty standalone. The Birthday Boy is so called because he abducts girls before their 13th Birthday, then on their birthday, sends a birthday card to the parents with a picture of the girl being tortured on the front. It doesn't stop there, the pa ...more
Kelly Hager
This is my first Stuart MacBride book, but it won't be my last. First, a caveat: this book is not for the faint of heart. It is grim. Hardcore grim. Some may even say bleak. And it's got the scariest serial killer ever. (Because who DOES that? Who sends parents pictures of their daughters being tortured to death? On their daughter's BIRTHDAY? For YEARS?!

But it's also incredibly funny (it helps if you have a dark sense of humor).

Ash Henderson is the very definition of anti-hero. He's not a very n
Mike Gabor
To call the main character of this book, DC Ash Henderson, an anti-hero or loose cannon would be a vast understatement. He's on the trail of a serial killer known as the Birthday Boy. The killer abducts young girls a few days before their 13th birthday and tortures and kills them. Then every year on the victims birthday he mails a birthday card to the parents along with a photo of the victim showing them bound and gagged as he was torturing them. Henderson's daughter, Rebecca, was also a victim ...more
Matt Holbrook
My First Macbride... Will not be my last!

I've been a fan of Lee Child and his Jack Reacher novels for a few years, but Birthday's for the Dead is the grittiest crime novel I've read in a long time. With Jack Reacher you often get interaction with the FBI, or other government agencies, ultimately in some nice part of the world. Birthdays for the dead is a totally different kettle of fish. Think gloomy glaswegian skies, heroine junkies and cops that didn't know a rule book existed, let alone read
Nicole About Town
Stuart MacBride is an evil genius and I absolutely love it.

I was first introduced to the world of Stuart MacBride back in October when I had the chance to attend a murder mystery evening with him at Harper Collins Canada HQ (HCC Facebook Page ftw). I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it ended up being amazing. At the end of the evening, all attendees were given a copy of his latest book Birthdays for the Dead. I can’t even adequately describe just how amazing this book is.

Another fast-moving police thriller from MacBride. He makes it seem as though Scotland is full of serial killers, pedophiles, and sadistic murderers.Detective Constable Ash Henderson is the "baddest" bad boy cop I've ever come across, but as the reader, you may hope he gets away with it. MacBride isn't for the faint-hearted, but the violence doesn't come across as gratuitous. I appreciated the part of the story set in the Shetlands. Despite its length, it never drags and the ending is truly a su ...more
From the same author who is responsible for the DS Logan McRae books we now find ourselves with a new series based around the character of DC Ash Henderson. There are a few differences this is set in the fictitious location of Oldcastle as opposed to Aberdeen, also Ash Henderson comes over as a much shadier character. It is fair to say that he carries plenty of baggage round with him, some of it credible and some maybe trying to stretch the imagination a bit too far.
The plot itself sounded intri
Wow! Ash Henderson is a police officer investigating the serial killer dubbed the 'Birthday Boy' who abducts and murders young girls just before their 13th birthday. What Ash's fellow officers don't know is that 5 years ago his daughter was taken by the aforementioned killer. This is a rollercoaster of a book with plenty of grit and twists and turns. Very dark and totally absorbing.
Completely over the top attitude, and attitude towards each other by the police officers. Just found it tedious violent and not very nice gave up part way through
I love this writer so much and one reason why is because his books are so different from the usual police procedurals. I'm a huge fan of his Logan MacRae series and this new series promises to be just as good, if a million miles away. DC Ash Henderson is totally unique in police procedural fiction. He regularly beats up and tortures anyone who annoys him or he thinks might be guilty of something but somehow he's always on the side of right, which is part of Mr MacBride's genius. Ash does bad thi ...more
Jayne Hyatt
Stuart MacBride is a genius. There, I've said it. HOWEVER, even geniuses can make mistakes, and this time around, I think MacBride made the mistake of going too far into the dark, unrelentingly depressing world he created, without providing the comic relief readers have come to expect in his books. I found myself longing for something, anything, to provide a bit of balance with the grim, gritty, violent, seemingly hopeless nature of this tale. Did that keep me from turning those pages? No, not a ...more
The cover attracted me in the bookshop and then after reading the blurb, it sounded right up my street so I bought it, and I wasn't disappointed.

The premise that there is a serial killer out there who snatches girls and then every year sends a birthday card with a torture photo to the parents is interesting enough, but Ash, the Detective on the case is what made this book, along with Dr Alice McDonald, who for a lot of the book is like a babbling child.

Ash's oldest daughter Rebecca, is an unkn
The synopsis bit: 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 home-made cards showing their daug
Andrea (Cozy Up With A Good Read)
This review was originally posted on Cozy Up With A Good Read

I have to say Stuart Macbride is a genius with his writing. This is one of the best crime novels I have read! Stuart is such a gritty writer, there were times I wanted to put this book down because I was a tad disturbed but found myself so enthralled with his writing. I also really love the setting of this book (I really enjoy books that take place in other countries, especially the UK) it's fun getting around a new area and getting us
Judie Holliday
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Seumas Gallacher
Like others, I have read all of MacBride's books, and knew that this one was a departure from Laz Logan et al. I note some of the negative reviews on here, and can only say that these readers are missing the boat. Of course there are similarities in the content and flow, and if those who have followed Logan really closely may have noted, particularly in Shatter the Bones, Stuart was looking for a way to get Logan involved in some darker, under the radar activity. Instead of spoiling Logan, he's ...more
This is my first foray into MacBride’s mysteries and writing, and I absolutely loved the experience! MacBride writes so vividly - covering not only the visuals, the sounds, authentic dialogue (with accents!), but even the smells (many of them quite foul). Every scene really springs to life off the page! It is so easy to become immersed in it, immune to your own surroundings as you become swept up into the characters and the horrific actions of the serial killer with the moniker “Birthday Boy.” T ...more
In my mind Stuart MacBride can do no wrong. I love McRae and Steel, and this venture off to investigate new characters didn't disappoint either. MacBride's narrative is so vivid you can feel and see everything he writes and totally immerse yourself, to me that is everything. However, having said that, I did feel some of the plot lines were a little far fetched and the twists at the end so sudden and brief they got lost. I didn't feel like I'd really finished the book, although to the same ends I ...more
Joanne Parkington
In my rush to order this new Stuart MacBride i hadnt read anything about it & presumed it was the new Logan book so i was bitterly disappointed when i soon realised it wasnt .... however, that feeling didnt last for long ... Ash Henderson is another brilliant character, superb story .. i was surprised at some of the reveiws on here which thought the book was too violent ... if you are a fan of Mr Macbride you should know & if you are a newbie you need to know that his main characters sta ...more
Paul Wardman
"MacBride is a damned fine writer - no one does dark and gritty like him" - Peter James

Dark and gritty. A huge understatement.

I love a good crime novel but my biggest problem is finding one that isn't predictable or cliché. I had no problem with this book. It's as if the author found a guide to how to write crime, tore it up and set fire to it.
One of the first things that hooked me besides the premise of the story was it's a crime novel set in Britain so for a change I could clearly visualise
I had a hmmm growing to love relationship with this book, a story about DC Ash Henderson, a corrupt Scottish cop whose heart is more or less in the right place. I found the beginning of the book awkward, I can't remember which author said it but if the reader is aware of your writing, you're doing it wrong (or something like that, I'm paraphrasing) but at the beginning of the book I was so aware of MacBride's writing style and it wasn't for good reasons. I found his style overly and often unnece ...more
Jenna Medlictott
Not a warm and cosy book by any stretch. The subject matter is harsh, young girls being abducted just before their thirteenth birthday, tortured to death with the evidence sent to their parents by way of a birthday card, one photograph a year. Every. Single. Year. Talk about your buzz kill...

Despite the subject, I love the way in which MacBride sets his scene and his characterisations are superb. You shouldn't like the protagonist, Ash Henderson, a supremely flawed character who is about as far
Lynda Kelly
This was pretty good but definitely too Scottish for my tastes. It's like he makes words up as he goes along and I found it irritating. Another annoyance for me is he uses Americanised spelling as well. That always gets my back up with Brit authors. Not sure why they choose to bastardise the language this way with their recognize/realized/apologize. Not good.
He uses italics till they drive you to distraction at times,too, especially when it's a 3-way conversation you're trying to follow. There w
This was a very blood curdling story. In fact I couldn't quite get into it because the story was so busy and diversified it branched off to other situations that Ash Henderson was involved in. The main story is about a serial killer who kidnaps young girls just when they will be reaching their 13th birthday. The killer is sadistic and tortures then kills the girls and he has killed a great many. Rebecca who is Ash's daughter went missing 5 years ago and he has received a photo of her in differen ...more
Angela Verdenius
Wow - okay, I love this writer, love his gritty police mysteries. This book took me by surprise. Yep, I could see the main character slowly spiraling out of control, see what he was slowly turning into, but the ending - I did not see that coming!!!! Awesome story! Grit, gore, mystery, dark humor, engaging characters, dangerous characters, bleak streets and a shock ending. This has it all.
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Aka Stuart B. MacBride

The life and times of a bearded write-ist.

Stuart MacBride (that's me) was born in Dumbarton -- which is Glasgow as far as I'm concerned -- moving up to Aberdeen at the tender age of two, when fashions were questionable. Nothing much happened for years and years and years: learned to play the recorder, then forgot how when they changed from little coloured dots to proper music
More about Stuart MacBride...

Other Books in the Series

Ash Henderson (2 books)
  • A Song for the Dying
Cold Granite (Logan McRae, #1) Dying Light (Logan McRae, #2) Broken Skin (Logan McRae, #3) Blind Eye (Logan McRae, #5) Flesh House (Logan McRae, #4)

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