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on 9 May 2015
From my review blog:

I must come clean right from the start; a confession almost. I like MacBride's novels; more specifically, I like his DI Logan McRae stories, and so, when given the opportunity to review this, I jumped at the chance.

MacBride fans will not be disappointed as this story follows similar themes to the McRae books - police investigation, our hero following his own enquiries and rebelling against his bosses, some great villainous characters, a smattering of humour and a dash of extreme violence. This is the second story featuring Ash Henderson, once a DI but now in prison for murdering his brother. He is released to help investigate the murder of a young nurse that bears the signature traits of "The Inside Man", indicating the killer is back after an eight year silence.

Despite this being book two, and not having read the first one, I didn't feel lost with the characters back stories. In fact, on this occasion, it was enjoyable to learn about the earlier storyline as this one progressed - it felt like I was discovering the evidence and deciphering the clues en-route.

There is violence aplenty within these pages and that may not be comfortable for some readers of crime. However, as with the McRae books, the violence is not there casually but, in my view, is a way of expressing the horror and anger felt, not only by the killer, but by the characters involved in the less pleasant side of the law.

The violence is rather splendidly offset by MacBride's humour. He has a neat way of adding little touches of comedy to ease the tension that builds throughout this story. His addition of local touches, the food and dialogue references for example, really add to the flavour of this book.

This is a great read and had me up late over several nights (or, rather, early mornings) as I devoured its pages.

Not one for the faint hearted but a cracking read from one of our best writers of contemporary crime.


My Rating: 4.0* out of 5.0*
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on 24 December 2014
Ash Henderson, a former DI, is in jail after having been framed by his archenemy, Mrs. Kerrigan. He comes up for parole every six months, only to be turned down because she instigates a fight between him and two thugs. Then he is rescued by a Detective Superintendent heading a special squad investigating a perpetrator, now resurfaced after several years’ hiatus, whose MO is that he cuts nurses open and inserts a plastic doll simulating a pregnancy. The reason for his release: Ash came closest to capturing the man years before, but lost him in a crowded railroad station.

So much for the plot, which teams Ash once again with forensic psychologist Dr. Alice McDonald. The rest is basic fine writing and character description as the police fumble in an effort to find The Inside Man, and Ash and Alice go their own way following one idea or another while trying to avoid any damage to themselves or the victims now held by the perpetrator.

This is the second in the Ash Henderson series and, like the initial entry, is craftily written. Henderson is quite a character, not averse to seeking justice by his own means or constructing a scenario which results in the same end. Such outcomes include revenge, so the subplot involving Mrs. Kerrigan provides some unusual goings-on. The whole mystery is tied together in a manner that leaves the reader’s mind spinning as Ash brings each clue into focus.

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I would imagine one could find fault with most of MacBride's characters but Ash Henderson is the least realistic, the least likeable and certianly the most aggressive and brutal man of the lot. Having said that, in this book, there are others such as Mrs. Kerrigan and another oddball, Wee Free to name only two. Where on earth such characters were created is beyond me..well, yes, from the author's mind but to have them play such a pivotal role seems obscure.

Even so, there are merits in the book. There is excellent place setting, some decent dialogue and some great scenarios, though these are often spoilt by the horrific violence perpetrated.

I miss the Logan McRae laddie, that's for sure.
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on 18 August 2014
I prefer the Logan books. The main character doesn't have Logan's "romantic loner" profile and the book doesn't have much humour. The plots of all his books are always a bit unbelievable and a bit too gory. After all there can't be that many serial killers in Scotland. However, one can almost believe that the police in Logan books would react something like as described but, despite recent revelations of their secret infiltration of groups that fought injustice, I just can't believe that they would act in the way that they are pictured here. The descriptions of a rundown town are quite good. Anyway I read it to the end to find out what happened.
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on 13 May 2014
Having read the first in this series and found it instantly forgettable, I tried to give this the benefit of the doubt but ended up not bothering to finish it. The Ash character is relentlessly and tiresomely aggressive, responding to just about everything with a clenched fist. He is entirely humorless as is the story,totally lacking in any lightness or wit. His alleged softness towards Alice is not credible. Alice herself, has to be one of the most profoundly irritating characters ever to appear in a book, with the constant wrapping of her arms around herself, twiddling with her hair, shuffling her feet in the red trainers. She hasn't evolved an inch from the first book and shows just one moment of insight when she declares herself a failure, for not spotting the obvious earlier. This is however, only as a show of self - pity.
All the characters are one - dimensional cardboard and the violence is mostly gratuitous and tedious. I can't imagine recommending this to anyone and I wouldn't bother to read anymore of the series. Shame, as I enjoyed the books set in Aberdeen. They were everything these two are not.
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on 29 March 2015
I loved this book. I found the central character of Ash Henderson extremely well written and the story compelling. Even though I hadn't read Birthdays for the Dead (which I now will be) it made no difference to following the story. Definitely worth a read with a twist at the end you probably won't see coming not until it nearly hits you in the face.

Great storytelling - I've now gone back and purchased all the Logan McRae series too as I am loving the setting and the characterisation that Stuart MacBride achieves.
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on 6 February 2014
I confess I'm normally a Stuart MacBride fan; I love the Logan McRae books and even liked Halfhead, which the world and his wife seem to detest. These Ash Henderson novels leave me cold though. Having struggled through the last one, Birthdays for the Dead, with it's bleak storyline and unremitting violence I thought it could only get better, but this is frankly even worse.

There are a number of problems for me. Firstly, the first person narrative is very restrictive as it means the story must be seen through the eyes of the main proponent and I find this extremely wearing after a while. Secondly, as mentioned by another reviewer, the reader has no sense of the characters (and there are a huge number of them in this book). It's difficult to keep track of all of them when the only point of reference for them is their name. I found myself constantly flicking back to decipher who the characters were when they re-appeared. Even the main characters of Ash and Alice are not described in any detail, so there is no connection or empathy built up with the reader. The only things I know about Alice is that she wears red shoes and plays with her hair a lot, while Ash is even more of a mystery.

The biggest problem for me however is the complete lack of any compassion and comedic relief. Where the Logan McRae series is equal to the Ash Henderson books in the amounts of gruesome violence and bleak storylines, they are balanced by MacBride's impish, black humour and his obvious affection for his characters DS McRae and DI Steel. This book is relentlessly grim and humourless and I sense that Mr MacBride has no love for his creations. I certainly wont buy any more of this series.
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on 3 September 2014
Very disappointed in this one. I have read all of Stuart MacBride's books, and this is by far his worst. Ash Henderson is a weak character compared to Logan MacRae.
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on 26 February 2014
Not very believable it seems like one of those books that has been written for contractual reasons rather than having a story to tell.
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I really enjoy Stuart MacBride's Logan McRae series. I wish I could say the same for the Ash Henderson books. All the things that I find only slightly annoying in the McRae books; the preposterous amount of violence, the cartoonish sequences, the ridiculous coincidences and total disregard for police procedure, and am able to dismiss because of the damn fine story telling and great characters, irritate the life out of me in these Ash Henderson books. I think it's because Henderson is like McRae gone off the rails. He is almost impossible to control and because he is out of control, everything in the books is out of control. I find myself grinding my teeth at them and wanting to shout 'noooo' a lot. I particularly find the excessive violence just too much. I thought this book was slightly better than the first one, but not a patch on McRae, and I just don't know if I can read another one, if there's going to be another one.
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