This is the first in a now established crime series featuring Detective Sergeant Aector (Hector) McAvoy, the Scotsman doing his bit for law and order in Hull.
The book starts with the killing of an old sea dog, the only survivor of a shipping disaster from forty years ago. Then, the only survivor of a massacre in Africa is brutally murdered with a machete in broad daylight in a city church. McAvoy is on the edge of proceedings, having a somewhat difficult recent history with the local police, because he ended the career of a popular (but bad) detective. However, by one of those quirks of fate that drives so much of our lives, and even more of our fiction, McAvoy is drawn into the central investigation, and the hunt is on to find the killer.
McAvoy is an interesting, well drawn character, though at times his behavior stretches the suspension of disbelief too far. The Hull backdrop is also well done, and takes up just the right amount of space in the telling of the tale. The plot is delivered with surprising panache for a first novel, and the sense of danger, action, and excitement are all pretty damn good.
Not so good stuff
The plot itself is a stinker. The motivation and explanation for these crimes does not hang together, and does not convince. That may be because it is not well written, or it may be that it is simply unbelievable. Regardless, it stank.
Similarly, most readers are going to work out what is going on well ahead of McAvoy and his police colleagues. I often wonder why the characters cannot see the bleeding obvious.
The supporting characters are the proverbial cardboard city, apart perhaps from his superior, Trish Pharaoh. She is a strange one: trying too hard to make her way in a man’s world, her behavior swings from extreme to extreme. Sometimes dictatorial, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes flirty, sometimes caring, sometimes just offering up some bland dialogue. She did not convince me.
Books like this face a challenge in a crowded market. They have to stand out from similar fare. This one just about does it, but not without a struggle. I’m intrigued enough to want to read more, because the author may better develop his characters and his story telling. In short, not bad, with some potential.
Finally, check out the quote from Val McDermid on the book cover at the top of this post. It will have been worth a few bob to David Mark, but I have to vehemently disagree with her, and don’t understand on what basis she can have made it. I’ve made a note to ignore recommendations by Val McDermid.