MacBride’s work is beyond gruesome yet the horror is tempered by gallows humour and Henry, “a daft, slightly stinky, Scottie dog”. The energetic prose is peppered with Scottish verbs — sook, hirple, wheech — and enlivened with such onomatopoeic inventions as zwip-zwop, skreltch and poonk. The violence, however, is not cartoonish. “Life is fleeting, short, and horrible,” Ash says to a colleague before he buys her a ride on a carousel. “Take whatever joy you can, where you can.” You could do a lot worse than start right here.
Things are crumbling in The Coffinmaker’s Garden by Stuart MacBride (HarperCollins, £18.99). On the Scottish coast, a storm is forcing a home into the sea, exposing human remains. And in wider society, white supremacists are setting off bombs as concepts of law and order become nebulous. But bloody-minded ex-detective inspector Ash Henderson isn’t concerned with the broader picture — he is set on catching a killer, come hell or high water. We might not want to live in the insalubrious Scottish town of Oldcastle, but a trip there in the company of the always masterful MacBride keeps us on our toes.
As previously mentioned, this is the third book in the Ash Henderson series, so it’s natural that there might be some areas where new readers will struggle to catch up with the story so far. However, there is a huge cast of characters to get your head around, and this isn’t made any easier by the fact that MacBride refers to them using a mixture of their last name, first name, rank and any number of nicknames as well.