Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Dead Pretty – David Mark

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction

So having read the first and the third in this series and even those two in the wrong order I was interested to see what DS Aector McAvoy had to offer in this, his fifth outing. I wasn’t disappointed.

The book opens with Aector on a family picnic, although he’s not fooling his wife Roisin who knows that he is trying to find the body of a girl who has been missing for nine months, an unsolved case that preoccupies him. But, life as a policeman never allows him to relax for long and no sooner have they eaten their sandwiches when a call comes in about a murdered girl.

What I particularly enjoyed with this novel was the multiple strands. A missing persons investigation and a murder would be enough for most crime writers to handle, but no we also have Reuben Hollow who has been released from prison, put away by Aector’s boss, Trish Pharaoh, on what appears to be false evidence, and who is now political dynamite as a result. With Pharaoh looking as if she is going to be hung out to dry Aector’s natural protective instinct goes into overdrive, but his boss seems to be changing; still feisty but drinking far too much and behaving secretively, he’s not quite sure what she wants from him anymore.

As in many police procedurals there are plenty of politics and rivalry between the teams as to who gets the ‘best’ cases although within the Special Investigation team things are relatively settled, just as well because the investigation into the murder is complex with leads taking them all in many different directions, none of them particularly good!

This was an engaging read and although Aector still comes across as a little too good to be true,, it makes a nice change from the gruff surly policemen that often inhabit this genre. I warmed far more to Trish Pharaoh in this book perhaps because we got to view her home life in a bit more detail and so I appreciated more of what made the core of the woman, and which aspects of her character she has capitalised to get on, both in her career and life in general. It was interesting to see some rivalry between her and Roisin, both women adore Aector and with one his wife and the other his boss, you have to wonder quite what is going to happen next.

One thing is for certain is that this is not a gentle read, the complexities of the plot coupled with the smart pace alone keeps the tension high from page to page and there are some fairly gruesome scenes. I thought I was fairly shock-proof but this book made me wince more than once along the way! I’m also not sure what whoever is in charge of Hull’s tourism thinks, as the descriptions of the city are less than flattering but there is nothing like a grim backdrop to set the scene for a disturbing crime!

I’d like to thank the publishers Hodder & Stoughton for allowing me to read a review copy of this book ahead of publication on 28 January 2016. I’m now well and truly motivated to read the missing episodes before book six gets published (sorry for those of you who think this is completely the wrong way to manage a series!)

DS Aector McAvoy series

Dark Winter
Original Skin
Sorrow Bound
Taking Pity
Dead Pretty

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Dark Winter – David Mark

Crime Fiction 3*s
Crime Fiction

Just for a change I started this series in totally the wrong place with the third book Sorrow Bound. I was impressed with Aector McEvoy, his innate goodness despite, you guessed it shadows in his past. Aector McEvoy had been instrumental in flushing out a corrupt boss, and his hangers-on which has made him feel like something of an outsider in his new role in the serious crime squad. Fortunately he doesn’t have a drink problem just a complete and absolute belief in justice.

When the sole survivor of a trawler tragedy thirty years before is wooed by the money promised by a TV show to mark the anniversary goes missing in the middle of the ocean only to be found later dead in a lifeboat floating of the coast of Finland, cause apparent suicide, no-one pays an awful lot of attention.

Aector McEvoy’s story opens in the run up to Christmas when Aector is waiting to meet his pregnant wife Roison, minding Fin, their young son in a café when he hears screaming. In a nearby church a young Somalian girl is found slashed. The crime should be easy to solve after all Aector saw him on the way out, before he got hit, but no the bodies in Hull’s morgue keep mounting up, all the victims died in different ways but Aector is determined to find the link.

This is a swiftly paced book with plenty of action. It is also a book that is very much setting the scene for a series, there are links here to the ongoing story arc that would have enhanced my understanding of the relationship between Aector and his boss Trish Pharaoh. Trish Pharaoh is a great character, tough and yet with an understanding of Aector, willing to forgive his somewhat maverick tendencies when he feels necessary. Having said that, it is a fairly standard police procedural albeit with a superb plot-line.  If you prefer your crime to come without too much violence, this probably isn’t one for you. The scenes while not gratuitous, give enough variations on how a man or woman can die to make the sternest of natures feel a little squeamish.

David Mark gives a real sense of place in Hull, this is a town which has lost its way; definitely past its best and with some understated sentences conjures up a picture of what the realities of this are. He doesn’t go down the lazy route though of painting an entirely black picture of the town, this is a realistic portrait where some homeowners are determined not to leave the area where they grew up.

The Dark Winter is an assured debut novel although perhaps if I’d read this first not quite shining enough to make me follow the series but knowing that there is better still to come means that I am now looking forward to Aector’s next outing.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Sorrow Bound – David Mark

Police Procedural  4*'s
Police Procedural

This is the third in the Aector MacAvoy series and although I haven’t read the previous books it worked well for me as a stand-alone read.  As in all the best novels in this genre there are a number of strands to the story, not least Aector’s struggles to get back to his previous self after whatever incident had injured him in his previous outing. To help him integrate back into his role he has to see the Police psychologist to get a clean bill of health. Aector isn’t really terribly enamoured with spilling his secrets to Sabine Keane and is relieved when he has a murder to investigate along with his superior Trish Pharaoh.

Aector comes across as a really likeable man who has a strong grip on what’s right and what is wrong. There is no falling out with either his superiors or the most junior members of his team but when it becomes apparent there is a sadistic serial killer menacing the good citizens of Hull, Aector is determined to find the culprit, and of course to catch him there he has to understand the motive.

A crime committed long ago, a drug dealer who wants to own the city and blackmail of another police officer are all put into the mix which meant that there was no time to sit back and relax for a moment during Aector’s race against time to stop any more murders.

This is not one for the faint hearted, this killer is brutal and David Mark doesn’t spare the reader any of the horrifying detail with more than a dash of violence in many an encounter. However, I think the subject matter is given a little lift by the observations such as walls being described as the colour of Elastoplast, the musing over whether his psychologist had been saddled with a rhyming name from birth and one action scene in a laundrette made me smile whilst simultaneously wincing, an art indeed!

Although the serial murder plot is neatly tied up with only a slight rising of my eyebrows as to motive the ongoing issue of the drugs plot that wove its way through the book is left to be continued in the next book where Aector may have to face the consequences of a long kept secret.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher’s Quercus ahead of the publication date 3 April 2014 in return for my review.