Author – Matthew Frank
Published – 2016
Genre – Crime fiction
It’s difficult to believe that it’s four years since I reviewed Matthew Frank’s debut ‘If I Should Die‘ or that I’ve left it so long before reading the sequel.
Stark is now a fully fledged DC and, along with DS Millhaven, attends the scene of the murder of a wealthy husband and wife; they have been shot in their own home and there may have been a burglary. There are pressures on the investigative team due to financial cuts, they are close to breaking point and that’s before they lose a member of the team. The temporary solution is the return of an unpopular character who upsets the team dynamic, often with Stark paying the price.
As with the first book the crime and the investigation involve a limited number of characters and take place over a small geographic area. The investigative aspects are those of a proper police procedural – interviewing suspects, results of post-mortems, but without lots of unnecessary technical detail. Despite this the plot is not a simple one and kept me guessing.
Although Stark has made progress since his first appearance he’s still plagued by nightmares and self-doubt. There’s a lot of internal monologue which gives the reader some insight into his personality but his colleagues still see him as something of an enigma who it’s difficult to figure out. Stark’s background is fleshed out a little more with some of his experiences when he was a soldier and he still has some duties to perform and connections in the army that he can press for favours. This move from TA soldier (and hero) to DC really does add a compelling aspect to the series.
One thing that I particularly appreciated was Frank’s ability to leave chapters on a cliff-hanger. Perhaps he’s a fan of James Patterson…? Anyway – it does make you press on with the book even when you know you have other things you should be doing. The pace is well balanced with slower aspects of the investigation and Stark’s life being matched by some faster paced action scenes, all rounded off by a hugely exciting climax.
Stark is a great character and I’m not a huge fan of crime fiction that is character-led but this series is a pleasure to read. If you’re not familiar with the series I can thoroughly recommend it – and start with the first book because that way you’ll be able to follow Stark’s journey.