The events of the finale of Sorrow Bound have shattered the lives of DS Aector McAvoy and those around him. Once a family man, he finds himself on leave, struggling to make ends meet to being up his son by himself. Meanwhile the criminal underworld of the north-east of England – Hull, in particular – is on the move. After the events of the previous book, the Headhunters are recruiting the best talent to strengthen their grip on the city and only the elderly Mr Nock stands in their way.
To keep him busy – and in part to get him out of harm’s way – Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh assigns McAvoy some “busy” work out of the city. Fifty years ago, a troubled young boy gunned down some other youngsters. He was remanded into care facilities ever since but now there is a chance the case might go to trial and Aector is there to see what evidence remains. He never expects to find danger still tied to the case from the past. But as things heat up back in the city, it seems that nothing will keep Aector out of harm’s way…
I reviewed the first three books of the series – Dark Water, Original Skin and Sorrow Bound – a while back, but as I didn’t get my hands on a review copy, it took a while to get round to this one, book four. The backstory continues the tale from Sorrow Bound, of the threat to McAvoy and his loved ones – I was a little worried about this as, to be honest, I’d forgotten a lot of it, but David Mark did a wonderful job of providing enough information as to what was going on – enough to make you care about what was going on as well – without feeling like an information dump.
The story follows the tales of a number of leads – McEvoy, Pharaoh, the disgraced DI Colin Ray as he tries to salvage his career by finding the voice of the Headhunters and Mahon, the lead thug of Mr Nock, standing as the last resistance in the criminal underworld to the Headhunters taking control of everything. Anyone who’s read the first three books will know that the events will take a dark turn. Some of the crime is brutal but never unnecessarily so to the narrative. I’m not a fan of excessive unnecessary violence in books but this never seems voyeuristic. In fact, this is one of the most compelling narratives that I’ve seen for a while, and the decision to give more page time to the supporting cast pays off in dividends. With so many characters moving towards various dates with destiny, it’s a safe bet that not everyone is going to get out of this in one piece.
The most impressive thing here is the character development of Mahon. It takes a writer of great skill to make the reader care about a monster, but while never hiding what he is and has done, I found that I cared about where his story was going. Not just wanting to know, but actually caring about it, just as I did with the other characters. And not wishing to sound like a big old wuss, the book did bring a tear to my eye at one point.
I’m being deliberately vague on plot details here – even vaguer than usual – because there is so much going on here. Yes, it’s a thriller more than a classic mystery, but this is a truly outstanding read. It might not be to everyone’s taste – and you might want to read Sorrow Bound first to get up to speed, although that’s not essential – but why not give it a try? A tremendous piece of work that I simply couldn’t put down. Highly Recommended.