The Dark Winter – David Mark

Title – The Dark Winter

Author – David Mark

Published – 2012

Genre – Crime fiction

When I was asked by the folk at Quercus if I would like to review this debut I only got as far as reading that it was set in Hull before saying “yes”.  Despite moving “down South” when I was small, Hull is where my roots are and it’s not often I come across a book set there.

Following a prologue set on a supertanker 70 miles off the icelandic coast, we meet Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy. It’s just a few weeks before Christmas and McAvoy is out in Hull city centre, having a coffee and looking after his four-year old son, when screams from the Christmas service at the church opposite interrupt them. Seeming to forget about his son McAvoy heads towards the source of the commotion and manages to run headfirst into a machete-wielding attacker who has already killed a young altar server. Luckily for us McAvoy only suffers a minor injury, and as his own luck would have it, despite his lowly status, he is the senior officer on call. Thrilled at the prospect of taking the reins his enthusiasm is quickly dampened when (Acting) Detective Superintendent Trish Pharoah cancels her plans so that she can take charge of the investigation. At which point a disgruntled McAvoy finds himself sent on a visit to a bereaved woman as a favour to the Assistant Chief Constable.

It soon becomes clear that the CID team has recently suffered some internal problems and McAvoy seems to have been at the centre of the trouble. As they face an increasing body count, McAvoy struggles with his own concerns about his place within the team and the antagonism he perceives towards him.

Described throughout as a “gentle giant” McAvoy’s size gives him an advantage over the criminals, who don’t see the gentler side that his fellow officers see, but despite the perception, he’s still no push-over.  In fact he actually acts the maverick on the investigations, taking the initiative where perhaps he shouldn’t. But this is because he believes that he holds the key to the investigations and is the only one who can possibly solve the crimes. Of course his ego may be getting just a little ahead of him!

He doesn’t have the usual traits of leading police characters – he’s not a drinker, isn’t divorced, in he fact has a seemingly happy home life with a wife he adores, his young son and a new baby on the way. But there is still a secret behind his relationship with his wife that colours their relationship, and impacts on the story. Along the way there’s also a suggestion of some sexual tension between McAvoy and Pharoah – perhaps something that will be resolved in a future book?

It’s good to see the setting of Hull being used to the full, and anyone who reads a story set in a location they know well will understand the pleasure you get from picturing the location rather than imagining it. I do hope that Mark uses Hull in the way Peter James does Brighton, rather than the way Craig Robertson does Glasgow!

Although this is perhaps an unremarkable police procedural, it is a well told story with an engaging lead character. The writing has quite a lyrical quality to it and in McAvoy I could see shades of a young Andy Dalziel, though perhaps from a more politically correct time! I hope we see more of Aector McAvoy.

You can see another review of this title at I Will Read Books.

Score – 4/5

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9 comments

  1. Nice review! I too want to read this but am waiting either until it is in the library or the price reduces from its current £8.50 on Amazon. Quercus sometimes sends me books but not this one, sadly.

      1. Yes indeed, I have read one too many in which the detective has one or more of a standard menu of “issues” and or he/she or a family member ends up in an “in peril” situation predictable from chapter 2!

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