Publisher Blue Rider Press
The Dark Winter by David Mark
Book Description (From Amazon)
A series of suspicious deaths has rocked Hull, a port city in England as old and mysterious as its bordering sea. In the middle of a Christmas service, a teenage girl adopted from Sierra Leone is chopped down with a machete in front of the entire congregation. A retired trawler man is found dead at the scene of a tragedy he escaped, the only survivor, forty years ago. An ugly fire rages in a working-class neighbourhood, and when the flames die away, a body is discovered, burned beyond recognition.
Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy is sure there is a connection between these crimes, but his fellow officers are not convinced—they would rather get a quick arrest than bother themselves with finding the true killer. Torn between his police duties and his aching desire to spend more time with his pregnant wife and young son, McAvoy is an unlikely hero: a family man more obsessed with being a decent cop, a physically imposing man far more comfortable exploring databases that being gung-ho with his muscle.
I read this book in a couple of long sittings, it held my interest so much. The Detective in this story, McAvoy, is a thoroughly likeable character with all his skills, and also all his flaws. He comes fully loaded with a complex background, a difficult work record and an unusually close marriage to a gipsy girl whom he saved from attackers. The relationship between him and his superior, Trish Pharaoh is well done and has a lot of potential for further stories.
The plot is well paced and there is a lot of tension in the story. It seems typical of McAvoy’s life experience that he becomes involved with the murder at a church to the extent that he is injured by the murderer on his escape form the scene.
The story is complex enough to keep you guessing, until you catch on to the connections between the victims but there is still plenty of excitement in finding out who the killer is. Very cleverly done. There are real gems of use of language and humour, e.g. in describing greasy spoon cafe,
‘…A mecca for anybody who thinks that culinary evolution peaked with the combination of brown sauce and baked beans,’
and describing a policeman, who didn’t seem to have carried out his job well as,
‘a shambolic lazy ba****d’, very funny in context.
The weather was bleak and cold throughout the story and was so well depicted that I almost felt I had to put a cardigan on.
Some negative points now. McAvoy’s guilt complex I feel was taken a bit far as he felt, a few times, that other people thought things were his fault for no good reason. Being a Scot myself I can totally relate to the dour Calvinistic guilt trips that we occasionally take as leisure pursuits, but this, in my opinion was a bit overdone. There was also a harshness in the portrayal of changes in the town of Hull, which in reality is probably no better or worse that any other town that (paraphrase) …flogs houses to whatever private company decides to clear the land and build flats for asylum seekers.
There was also a small sense of being cheated when McAvoy find the written material which pinpoints the killer, it seemed a bit too contrived.
Having said all that however, my delight in this book outweighs the niggles that I have, and I would have no problem recommending it as a great read, and would certainly read more of this writer.