Scorched Earth by David Mark

Crystal Heathers had the perfect job, working as the groom to the family of a local Hull businessman. But one day, she disappears – and only the trainee detective assigned to the case believes there is more to this than someone running off on holiday.

Meanwhile DS McAvoy discovers a chilling crime scene – a body brutally murdered and pinned to the wall in a warehouse. And there are traces in the warehouse that someone – a woman – has been recently held captive there.

Neither of them suspect what is going to happen – as the forces of the organised crime of Humberside converge, along with various people desperate for revenge for some sins with very long shadows – including McAvoy himself.

OK, this isn’t a book that most of my blog readers are going to look at. There’s a Venn diagram that can describe the books that I review:

  • Set A = {Golden Age Mysteries}
  • Set B = {Locked Room Mysteries}
  • Set C = {Historical Mysteries}

So class, can you name the single element in A ∩ C? Sorry, slipped into teacher mode there for a moment. But there’s also a small set D = {Dark thrillers set north of Watford Gap}, basically containing the works of Stuart MacBride and David Mark. (There’s also a small set containing modern mysteries containing the odd chapter from a pig’s point of view, by the way).

The first Aector McAvoy book, Dark Winter, was one of the first books I was asked to review on the blog – the US first edition I was sent has pride of place on my shelf of review copies. It was a gripping thriller, and ever since the series has progressed, I’ve been urging people to give the books a try. Genre-wise, it’s definitely in the thriller camp, and there are some descriptions of violence that people might balk at, although Mark doesn’t dwell on these, moving quickly on, which actually has the effect of making them more chilling.

One of the most impressive things about this tense page-turner is that while it does build on what has gone before with the Headhunters – the organised crime group – the reader doesn’t need to what has gone before to see what’s going on. I can say that as despite having read and enjoyed all that has gone before, I can’t remember the details of the previous tales. That’s not a criticism of this series, I can’t remember much about a lot of individual titles – I do read a lot…

So, a gripping thriller that works as a standalone or as part of a series (for those readers with better memories than me), with an endearing central character with a strong supporting cast. Highly Recommended for fans of the genre.

Previous books in the series:

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