The Dark Winter by David Mark is the first book in a new crime series set in Hull. It might be his debut novel, but David Mark is not new to writing for a living, having spent seven years as a crime reporter for the Yorkshire Post in Hull. Don't laugh now, but Hull is why I choose to read The Dark Winter. Ever since I moved to the UK in 2005 I've heard so much about Hull, but nothing good. I want to know more about Hull, and it's about time someone wrote a crime novel not set in London or Edinburgh. Besides, there is a serial killer on the loose who is killing people who were the lone survivor of otherwise fatal tragedies. What's not to like about that? Thank you Quercus Books for providing me with a review copy of The Dark Winter.
Hull, East Yorkshire. Two weeks before Christmas. Three bodies in the morgue. The victims - each a sole survivor of a past tragedy - killed in the manner they once cheated death. Somebody is playing God. And it falls to DS Aector McAvoy to stop their deadly game.
I think the blurb catches the essence of the book, and does not really need me trying to summarise the story. It’s worth mentioning how Aector McAvoy is not a rockstar copper, he is a deskjockey in charge of databases. He first thinks he will be in charge of the investigation with everyone else on holiday, but the media attention quickly has him assigned to watch from the sidelines and run errands. At least to start with.
Aector McAvoy, like any other fictional policeman, has his baggage of demons and character flaws. This time, it's not drinking or drugs, but love. Love for his son and traveller wife, Roisin. His emotions are so intense it's almost a question of being obsessed, and when he thinks of them everything else disappears. I admit love is not quite as self destructive as drug abuse, at least not for McAvoy, but it does affect his decision and behavior. His emotions are very complicated, while capable of great passion he also harbors an even greater capacity for anger. Aector McAvoy is a huge monster of a man, not really what you expect for a copper with a reputation of being a desk jockey and database nerd. His anger is held in check by love for his family, thinking of them calms him. His shyness and social awkwardness is both funny and endearing, sometimes he is like a little boy trapped in the body of a grown man. Once I just wanted him to man up and stop being such a wuss. In this occasion different is good and I quickly warmed to the big Scotsman.
One common plot element for the protagonist to overcome in crime is differences with the boss or other corrupt elements within the force. In The Dark Winter David Mark makes corruption something in the past. Aector McAvoy was the only officer with a clean sheet after he himself exposed some rotten eggs within the force. No one expect himself and the brass knows what really happened, the rest of the Hull police force could only watch from the side lines as a high ranking officer was forced into early retirement. Our hero did not make any friends from this, everyone else are cautious, and even hostile, towards him. Everyone, except his new boss, Trish Pharaoh.
Trish Pharaoh was assigned to lead the task force almost as the token female boss, but she had other ideas, and refused to fall into line by hand picking her officers and making a real go at the job. She comes across as a mix between a very earthy, motherly figure and a succubus. The mere scent of her is enough to make men weak at the knees, and poor Aector McAvoy, being a tall chap, has a too good view of her ample cleavage.
Together they have a lot to prove, the old guard wants them to fail.
The Dark Winter is a good book, a book which was exciting from start to finish. The plot is exciting, and really dark, with a lot of strong emotions from love to hatred. I don't think the city of Hull will use The Dark Winter to try and appeal to tourists. The book more confirms than denies the reputation of Hull. I thought the change of scenery was very refreshing, Hull is at least a great place for crime novels. Hopefully, the future will hold more from David Mark.
The Dark Winter weighs in at 320 pages and is published by Quercus Books.