Monday, 8 February 2016

A Song for the Dying by Stuart MacBride (Ash Henderson, #2) - Book Review

5/5 Stars

The case he couldn't forget has come back from the dead...


Edition: Paperback
Pages: 534
Chapters: 53
Publisher: Harper

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Website


Give me more! I need more!

A Song for the Dying is outstanding! A wonderful, tense and black thriller that matches its predecessor in both barbarity and brilliance. Birthdays for the Dead, the first novel, introduces tortured characters to die for; A Song for the Dying builds on that and then some. The new villain is sick; the story weaves multiple threads of tenuous horror; and our two protagonists are just plain captivating.

If you have a strong stomach and thirst for something to challenge your constitution, MacBride's novels await!

Synopsis (This time round, I'll be using the blurb that comes with my edition of the book.)

He's back...

Eight years ago, 'The Inside Man' murdered four women and left three more in critical condition - all with their stomachs slit open and a plastic doll stitched inside.

And then the killer just...disappeared.

Ash Henderson was a Detective Inspector on the initial investigation, but a lot can change in eight years. His family has been destroyed, his career is in tatters, and one of Oldcastle's most vicious criminals is making sure he spends the rest of his life in prison.

Now a nurse has turned up dead, a plastic doll buried beneath her skin, and it looks as if Ash might finally get a shot at redemption. At earning his freedom.

At revenge.

Plot - 5/5 Stars

The quality of this sequel is insane. Birthdays for the Dead is an intense tale: It's beyond personal; the heartbreak so palpable it seems impossible to replicate or adapt. Well, MacBride continues on Ash and Alice's story without sacrificing any of it. He keeps his dark and gritty plot, mixes brutality and comedy to the point that the reader feels guilty if they ever crack a smile, and delights us with the sort of twists, turns and surprises you can only dream of.

The misdirection and execution is intelligent and crafty. And not only for the case. The hunt for 'The Inside Man' is a thrill ride, but it's made even more erratic and terrifying by the unrelated criminal mastermind that shadows our characters' every move, intent on causing pain and misery (well, more than they already have).

A Song for the Dying is solid as a standalone, the author works concise explanations into references to the past, but I do recommend reading Birthdays for the Dead first. That extra bit of backstory completes the world and makes for delicious confrontations. 

Things just go from bad, to worse, to hell...

And MacBride rewards you in the resolution of the story. The satisfaction the reader experiences once the pieces fit together is great. It's devious and completely nail-biting. 

Pace - 5/5 Stars

I've been busy lately, so I had to spread A Song for the Dying over more days than I usually do. At least, more than I usually try to do. But it didn't matter one bit. Everything is engaging, everything burns itself into your memory. I picked the book back up after a couple days and it all came flooding back. That's a testament to the story's effectiveness.

The flow is smooth, with smatterings of action, conspiracy and clandestine chaos.

Characters - 5/5 Stars

Just when I think the cast can't get any better...

A Song for the Dying introduces a whole host of characters that stand on their own merit. Who knew you could get so much individuality from varying shades of grey? All in all, probably the strongest overall cast MacBride has written, at least from the novels I've read.

But there are two characters that I'm just dying to praise. Ash and Alice: The dynamic duo 2.0 (Logan and Steel, from the author's other series, are the originals). Not to sell this novel's protagonists short, however, they are unique and totally independent. They're also bloody fantastic.

Ash Henderson, disgraced police officer and ruthless hunter of justice, is such a compelling personality. Tortured and tense, fearless and diabolical. He is not a man who will be constrained, and as this entry shows implicitly, he is not a man afraid of getting his hands dirty. Ash definitely isn't evil, though. He might be morally iffy but he's one of the good guys, showing rare moments of emotion that add to the complexity of his character. He's also no longer a police officer, acting in this entry as a consultant-like member. It frees MacBride up to play more in the shadows without the bureaucracy.

Alice is a capable balance. She's a lovable and loopy partner, with an intelligence that is disregarded because of her eccentricities. While the light to Ash's dark, A Song for the Dying sees a shocking turn of events that stain Alice to her core. You really need to read it to enjoy it, it's one of the best moments in the entire novel.

Writing - 5/5 Stars

I can't fault the author. He's bloody brilliant. Strong visuals are accompanied by sharp detective work. Even at over 500 pages there's not one thing you could take out, nor would you want to. I can't get enough of the style and Scottish-ness. 

Overall - 5/5 Stars

One thing is for sure: I need more Ash Henderson, pronto.

Previous Instalment: Birthdays for the Dead

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