“He’s back …
Eight years ago, ‘The Inside Man’ murdered four women and left three more in critical condition – all of them 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 on a patch of waste ground, a plastic doll buried beneath her skin, and it looks as if Ash might finally get a shot at redemption. At earning his freedom.
“A Song For The Dying” is the second novel by Scottish author Stuart MacBride to feature Ash Henderson as his lead character, following on from “Birthdays For The Dead”, and is set in the fictional town of Oldcastle.
I was introduced to MacBride’s writing via “Cold Granite”, the first of his, to date, nine DS Logan McRae crime novels set in Aberdeen. Whereas McRae is a, to quote the author himself, “upbeat and positive” and a team player, Henderson is quite a different matter – “dark and brooding”.
In the previous book Henderson had been demoted from DI to DC, and although this one is set after the events of the first book, it harkens back to an initial investigation into the crimes of “The Inside Man” from eight years previously, when Henderson was still a DI.
Now, he’s in prison – framed for a murder that he didn’t commit by a nasty gangster, Mrs. Kerringan, who does her level best to ensure that parole is denied every time it comes up by getting some of Henderson’s fellow inmates to start a fight with him and make it look like he’s the one at fault.
When it appears that “The Inside Man” may have returned, Police Scotland are having trouble with the case and arrange for former DC Henderson to be released from prison to work on the case as he was one of the lead investigators originally. If all goes well, he’ll remain a free man.
Teaming up again with slightly odd forensic psychologist, Dr. Alice McDonald, Henderson plunges headlong into investigating the crimes, whilst also plotting revenge on Mrs. Kerrigan. Things, however, are never easy or straightforward in a MacBride novel, and this one is no different in that respect. Henderson soon finds himself having to contend with bickering police teams, a very smug police psychologist, Mrs. Kerrigan and her heavies, not to mention other heavy underworld figures!
There is a delightfully dark sense of humour at work here, and some genuinely funny descriptions. On the flip side, the methods of murder and gratuitous torture described here mean you’d be unlikely to ever want to visit Oldcastle, if the place existed!
There are some brilliant twists and turns – just when you think you’ve got things figured out and know where it’s all headed, you get the rug pulled from under you with a totally unexpected development.
Superb writing, and a great story. All in all, a very, very good crime thriller. I’m really looking forward to getting to MacBride’s latest Logan McRae novel, “The Missing And The Dead”, when that reaches the top of my to-be-read pile!