Source: Review copy
Publication: 7th January 2021 from Harper Collins
A village on the edge…
As a massive storm batters the Scottish coast, Gordon Smith’s home is falling into the North Sea. But the crumbling headland has revealed what he’s got buried in his garden: human remains.
A house full of secrets…
With the storm still raging, it’s too dangerous to retrieve the bodies and waves are devouring the evidence. Which means no one knows how many people Smith’s already killed and how many more he’ll kill if he can’t be found and stopped.
An investigator with nothing to lose…
The media are baying for blood, the top brass are after a scapegoat, and ex-Detective Inspector Ash Henderson is done playing nice. He’s got a killer to catch, and God help anyone who gets in his way.
The Ash Henderson series is not for the faint hearted. Our protagonists carry battle scars, not all of them visible, though many are. But years of dealing with the scum of society has taken its toll. Loved ones have been lost; scars have covered over but left their mark on the brain as well as the body. Battle weary cops subjected to brutality over and over have found their own ways of coping. The Oldcastle mob are a bunch of misfits – more akin to the Slough House rejects of Mick Herron’s books than the modern outfit that is Police Scotland.
Former DI Ash Henderson and his partner Dr Alice McDonald of the Lateral Investigative Review Unit find themselves in the midst of two distinct cases. Ash and Alice are working on the abduction and murder of a number of young boys from around the Oldcastle area, which is half way between Aberdeen and Dundee, most recently in the quiet sea front village of Clachmara.
As a helicopter flies over the village seeking to rescue the crew of a fishing boat in difficulty, part of the headland gives way and the helicopter’s spotlight reveals a devastating sight as the coastal erosion which has exacerbated in recent years, claims another cliff top dwelling.
The sight was one of human bones, bones that clearly belonged to more than one person. It doesn’t take long before Ash and Alice are clear that this house, now cleaved in two, one half already in the sea, was the scene of several tortures and subsequent murders.
DI Malcolmson, ‘Mother’, and her team are investigating and as Ash and Alice discover a collection of ‘before and after’ Polaroids in the basement the rest crumbles into the sea. The only thing they have left to work with are the photographs of the victims.
Gordon Smith, owner of the house is nowhere to be seen and Leah, the daughter of Smith’s next door neighbour, Helen McNeill is also missing.
MacBride knows how to write a dark, gritty and disturbing book full of violence and dark intent. His characters jump out of the page and it is all too easy to feel their pain and anguish. MacBride brilliantly tempers this with acerbic dialogue that fizzes, biting wit and black, black humour that make the pages sing, even when they are dealing with the bleakest of subject matter.
Beautifully plotted and with spell-binding tension, MacBride never lets you forget for a second that murder is a dark and violent obsession that never ends well. Brilliantly paced with cracking wit and laugh out loud moments of genius, there are even little nuggets of gold left for the assiduous crime reader to spot, whether references to Bute Noir and a hilarious visit to the Crime Fiction Bookclub, or to a renowned former Scottish Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology.
But loss is always on the cards in these books and this time that danger is front and centre as Ash takes on his deadliest case yet. Even poor Henry is at risk!
Verdict: Intense, dramatic, thrilling and sparking with the kind of antagonistic, pugilistic characters and black humour that MacBride excels in. I loved it!
Stuart MacBride is the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author of the Logan McRae and Ash Henderson novels. He’s also published standalones, novellas and short stories as well as a children’s picture book. Stuart’s novels have won him the CWA Dagger in the Library, the Barry Award for Best Debut Novel, Best Breakthrough Author at the ITV3 crime thriller awards and a Dead Good Reader’s Award. He has been shortlisted for the Barry Award, and twice for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Stuart lives in the northeast of Scotland with his wife Fiona, cats Grendel, Gherkin, Onion, and Beetroot, some hens, horses, and a vast collection of assorted weeds.