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Birthdays for the Dead (Ash Henderson #1)

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,297 Ratings  ·  322 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.
Hardcover, 472 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by HarperCollins (first published 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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4.5 stars!

Scottish Noir-it's a thing. I finished my first book in this genre and it will not be the last.

This is more of a psychological thriller than a horror novel, but that doesn't make this story any less horrific. MacBride's way of telling the story took a little getting used to-there are a lot of holes and questions on the reader's part. But I had faith in MacBride and just continued on and shortly, my patience was rewarded.

The author did not take any shortcuts, he built his characters fr
Jon Recluse
Jan 18, 2016 Jon Recluse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, thriller

This book is a stripped down muscle car, roaring with unbridled horsepower, racing like the literary equivalent of Steve McQueen in BULLITT through dark territory, pedal to the metal without headlights, questionable brakes and Steve himself at the wheel, taking the story through it's paces, hitting every twist and turn like a pro, ricocheting off the curves, pieces flying, until the very end, when the reader crawls out of the smoking wreck, soaked in sweat, twitching like a junkie.....and ready
Swedish review

Media kallar honom "Födelsedagsfiraren" för att han kidnappar flickor precis innan de ska fylla tretton år och sedan skickar han ett födelsdagskort till deras familjer som visar hur han långsamt torterar dem till döds. Varje år får de ett nytt kort. För fem år sedan försvann kriminalinspektör Ash Hendersons dotter Rebecca. Ett år senare får han ett kort på posten, men han hemlighåller detta för om det skulle komma fram skulle han inte få vara kvar på utredningen.

Att skriva en bok o
James Thane
Mar 30, 2013 James Thane rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
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
Mar 12, 2012 Vikki Petraitis rated it it was ok
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.
Rachel the Book Harlot
Sale alert! This is on sale today Thursday, 2/11 on Amazon for $.99. Down from $14.99! I couldn't believe it. I am a huge fan of MacBride's Logan McRae series and have been meaning to pick this one up.

If you are a fan of crime fiction, snap this up!
Jan 11, 2016 Kimberly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: group-read
Really enjoyed this--my first book by Stuart MacBride. It was much more character-driven, despite the horrendous premise of the novel. It remained fast-paced, but more in regards to the relations between the characters, and humor infused throughout, that made this one difficult to put down.

I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that the ending the author chose was absolutely the perfect fit for a novel like this, in my humble opinion. It was one of those that I'm sure each reader wil
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
Maxine Marsh


Since the day I caught up on John Connolly's Charlie Parker series, there's been something missing from my life-- a great dark mystery thriller series!

Well, this one will do. I should say that this was not at all similar to Connolly's series, but it hit the spot anyway. This was a dark one, there was plenty of pain to be had, and I couldn't put it down!

In some ways this is a typical noir crime novel, a crooked-cop-distraught-teased-by-serial-killer as the lead. Although I liked Ash at times
Jan 03, 2013 Andrea rated it did not like it
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
Jan 06, 2013 Julie rated it did not like it
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
Thomas Strömquist
Jan 11, 2016 Thomas Strömquist marked it as dnf
DNF at 32 %

Since I learned next to nothing about the life and times of the characters in "Birthdays for the Dead", I'm sure I won't miss the last 2/3rds. The technique of throwing the reader into the midst of the action and then give the background story and character presentations in bits and pieces sometimes work, but not for me in this one.

"A lanky bloke in a black waist coat and bow tie sidled up behind the bar, wiping the wooden surface with a cloth. He smiled. 'Another?' Enough gel in his
Mike Gabor
Jul 24, 2013 Mike Gabor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british-mystery
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
Nov 24, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing
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
Trev Twinem
Feb 06, 2016 Trev Twinem rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Kelly Hager
Mar 04, 2013 Kelly Hager rated it it was amazing
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
Matt Holbrook
Feb 15, 2012 Matt Holbrook rated it it was amazing
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
This is a hard book to review without giving away too much.
It is my first Stuart MacBride and it is one of the grisliest books I have ever read.
Ash Henderson is the flawed hero, demoted cop living and working in Scotland.
He is on the hunt for a serial kidnapper called the Birthday Boy. This horrible human being kidnaps young girls just before their 13th birthday, tortures and eventually kills some of them. On the girls' birthdays he sends a card to their parents yearly with a picture showing the
Nov 25, 2015 Karen rated it liked it
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 t
Nicole About Town
Jan 04, 2012 Nicole About Town rated it it was amazing
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.

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
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
Feb 09, 2016 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Detective Constable Ash Henderson has a dark secret...

And the award for darkest crime thriller ever goes to...

Holy crap, Mr MacBride. So the author is known for his darkness and grit, it's practically unrivalled, and then you read Birthdays for the Dead and it stains your soul. It's twisted and torn, tragic and tantalising, everything a novel like it should bloody be. If you have a weak disposition, move along, because you are about to be battered in the feels and left completely traumatised.

Feb 16, 2015 Neil rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 04, 2012 Jo rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 28, 2012 Stephanie rated it did not like it
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
May 30, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 20, 2015 Jayne Hyatt rated it really liked it
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
Apr 14, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it
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
Sep 13, 2012 ReadandRated rated it it was amazing
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
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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 (Ash Henderson, #2)

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“Must be nice to be a seagull. You eat, you sleep, you shag, and if you’re having a bad day you can shite on everyone from a great height. Doesn’t even have to be a bad day, you can do it just for fun.” 4 likes
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