Hull, East Yorkshire. Two weeks before Christmas, an elderly man - the only survivor of a fishing trawler tragedy 40 years before - is found murdered at sea. In a church, a young girl - the last surviving member of a family slaughtered during the conflict in Sierra Leone - is hacked to death with a machete. A junkie, who fled the burning house where he had set his family alight, is found incinerated on a rundown council estate. Someone is killing sole survivors in the manner they had escaped death. And it falls to Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy of Humberside CID to find out whom. McAvoy, despite being a six-foot-five, man mountain of a police officer, is not your typical bullish detective. A shy, gentle giant, he is a family man obsessed with being a good and decent cop; more dab hand with a database than gung-ho with a gun - traits that have seen him become increasingly isolated from his colleagues in the force. Desperate to prove his worth, McAvoy knows he must establish the motive behind the killings if he is to have any chance of pinning the perpetrator. And he must do so quickly, as this twisted yet ingenious killer appears to have an appetite for murder.
First book up in August and it was this debut novel from David Mark called The Dark Winter, published back in March, 2012. My wife read and enjoyed this several months ago, but it has taken a while for me to get around to it. It’s fairly possible that the crime reading world and his wife has already read this and my better half and I could in fact be the last two individuals to enjoy it, who knows?
Verdict..... it was an interesting enough read which started well for me, dipped a bit, got back on track and then finished ok. The main character, DS McAvoy was intriguing and sympathetic, though the slow drip drip drip of his back-story eventually proved to be irritating for me as opposed to intriguing and enigmatic. I would have liked to have seen him a little bit more cynical and world-weary after his previous troubles instead of maintaining the angelic, choirboy persona where butter refused to melt in his mouth. I think I prefer the heroes to possess some imperfections.
The plot started well and unfolded at a reasonable pace. The raison d’être or premise for the whole book, provoked a bit of a “yeah, right” response when all became clear. A little bit unbelievable, ok a big stretch, but hey ho....I was intrigued enough to read on and didn’t feel there was anything else I would rather have been doing.
To be honest, I would have preferred McAvoy’s boss, Trish Pharaoh to have been the lead character in this, but maybe I’m just a bit picky. More interesting, more real, less perfect, more flaws......and a strong female lead!
Star of the show was for me, the city of Hull. Mark’s portrayal was superb..........the decline, the people, the lack of hope in many and the continuing struggles of a few to endure......eye-opening, to say the least.
Where to set the bar? 3 or 4, 3 or 4, 3 or 4.............I’m a generous soul so 4. I will probably read something less enjoyable this month, but I hope to read something a wee bit better.
I think I obtained this copy from the RISI website, in exchange for something I had finished with. I was the lucky recipient of the second book in the series, Original Skin a month or two ago in a Goodreads giveaway. Maybe later this year then!
Here’s a link to a couple more reviews around the town, Sarah at Crimepieces earlier this year and one over at Raven Crime Reads.