Math Bird’s Histories of the Dead (All Due Respect Books) is a collection of crime stories set in Wales, all published over the last four years. If the characters are not directly involved in crime, their lives are skating along the periphery of lawlessness. The book opens with the eponymous short story about a man dealing with his friend’s murder. Should he try to get revenge or not?
The realizaiton that Stevey is dead returns to me in flashes. Like a rotten tooth, it suddenly strikes a nerve and throbs inside me. It’s nothing anyone says that brings it all back. It’s these old Beatles songs he used to love. They keep playing them on the radio.
In “All the Hungry Ghosts”, a scar-faced underling on an old boss not only has to deal with his boss’ demands, he has to stomach the outrages behavior his boss has towards the boss’ new mail-order bride.
Usually, Wales is just a detailed backdrop to Bird’s stories, but in “This Land of the Strange”, the countryside becomes a player in helping or hindering the escape of the main character from the pursuit of two London criminals.
Jernegan marched towards the trees, then stepped into the woods. He breathed deeply, inhaling the sweet smell of pine. He carried on walking, following the trail, his feet squelching in the mud. Occasionally, he gazed up at the sky, at the huge grey clouds drifting over him. He hoped the rain would lead them here, running for shelter, like two lambs to the slaughter.
I only had problem with the reading on one story and that was “The Devilfish” which is told from the point of view of a woman with dementia. This is most likely more problem in my reading and not the writer’s issue. The moments of Bird’s Histories of the Dead that stuck with me the most were honest looks at people on the fringes of society.