Scottish Crime Fiction

MacBride, Stuart. Birthdays for the Dead. Harper: HarperCollins. Feb. 2013. 496p. ISBN 9780007344208. pap. $14.99. F

For the past 12 years girls have been disappearing on the eves of their 13th birthdays. Most are considered runaways until a year later when their parents receive a homemade birthday card featuring a photo of their daughters being tortured. A card arrives each year thereafter, showing progressively worse torture until a final picture shows a dead girl. When the victims’ bodies are found in a park in Oldcastle, psychologist Alice Macdonald is brought in to create a profile of the killer. DC Ash Henderson is assigned to work with her, but he withholds key information from her despite his desperation to find the killer for very personal reasons of his own. ­ VERDICT Scottish crime novelist MacBride’s ( Cold Granite Flesh House ) latest thriller is pure MacBride: well written, entertaining, dark, and violent. It’s sure to appeal to fans of gritty Scottish thrillers by Denise Mina and Ian Rankin . —Lisa O’Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnepeg

Library Journal Reviews starred reviews Mina, Denise. Gods and Beasts. Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown. Feb. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780316188524. $25.99. F

During an armed robbery in a Glasgow post office, a grandfather inexplicably steps from the queue to help the gunman before being shot to smithereens. DS Alex Morrow is on the case, despite her exhaustion from having newborn twins. But what begins as a murder investigation turns into a maze of conspiracy and lies. A witness claims the grandfather recognized his killer, but the dead man’s widow says it’s impossible. Meanwhile, one of Morrow’s trusted officers flirts with corruption, and her half-brother, Danny, a notorious gangster, is connected to a scandal that threatens a prominent politician. Although these story lines don’t always appear to connect, Mina deftly stitches them together in time for a powerful climax. VERDICT In this third Alex Morrow procedural (after The End of the Wasp Season ) Mina again plumbs the depths of the grungy Scottish metropolis, capturing political posturing, class differences, and familial dynamics with equal aplomb. At its center is the cranky, sympathetic Morrow, fast becoming one of the most intriguing cops in crime fiction. Fans of smart, character-driven procedurals will want to snatch this one up. [See Prepub Alert, 8/3/12.] —Annabel Mortensen, Skokie P.L., IL