Reviewed by Linda Lee
Stuart MacBride has really lifted his game with the "Ash Henderson" novels. A Song for the Dying is only the second book in what I hope will be a long series, but I am already preferring them to his Logan McRae books.
To get a proper sense of A Song for the Dying, you really must read Birthdays for the Dead. The traumatic events of that novel are the catalyst for this. The opening chapters have Ash Henderson in prison, on the receiving end of a beating, one designed to keep him in prison that bit longer, as every time he is up for parole, he is involved in a fight that looks like he started. His nemeses, vicious criminal Mrs Kerrigan is determined to keep him inside until she is sick of this game and decides to end his life once and for all.
When a killer from his past, "The Inside Man" who murdered four women and left three at deaths door (each with a doll stitched inside them), appears to have resurfaced after an eight year absence, Ash is released from jail to help with the investigation. He however has another agenda, and that is to kill Mrs Kerrigan. Wearing an ankle monitor that is connected to that of Alice, his sponsor, is a problem he has to deal with if he hopes to carry out his plans on revenge. Added to the mix is the threat of returning to prison if he cannot make headway with the investigation, it is his shot at redemption and to earn his freedom.
The writing is spot on, sprinkled with black humour and memorable characters. It is hard not to compare them to the Logan books, but here the humour is more restrained, the language less slapstick. The subject matter is pretty horrific in places (anything to do with child pornography is!) but nothing is gone into in great detail...the imagination working overtime filling in the unsaid.
A keen crime reader will recognize other crime authors names he has pilfered for some of his characters. That gave me a chuckle.
Linda Lee is a passionate crime fiction reader and the book buyer for Penny's Bookstore in Hamilton. She regularly attends crime fiction events.