An interesting trend I’ve noticed with many crime fiction readers is how much we like to start a series with the first book that was written. I can understand why this is the case: with long series especially, characters develop over time and you can only properly appreciate this if you start at the beginning. That said, I’m never able to read a series in order. Time and work pressures mean I tend to grab whatever book is going and I’m lucky if I have read a complete series. This is the case with David Mark’s novels set in Hull. I read the first book, The Dark Winter, which rightly had plaudits heaped upon it. I missed reading its sequel but can happily say that it made no difference to my enjoyment of the latest installment, Sorrow Bound.
Hull based policeman DS Aector McAvoy is investigating the murder of a woman found eviscerated on a patch of land. While suspicion initially falls on her former partner, another murder in a similar vein suggests there is a serial killer on the loose. But the team are also investigating the work of a local drugs boss under whose command violence is escalating in the local community. When a member of the police team is filmed in a compromising sexual encounter, not only is the investigation under threat but the lives of Aector’s family and friends.
What elevates David Mark’s books above other police procedurals is the strength of characterisation. This is most notable in Roisin, the wife of Aector, who comes from a traveller background and was the victim of a violent attack within that community. Rescued by Aector, she never comes across as a victim and we see the strength of her personality, not only through her actions but from the love of her husband and the respect she garners from his colleagues and her friends. The police team members are also well drawn: Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh in particular, with her complicated family life and brash personality, stands out.
The complexity of Mark’s writing is also apparent in how the setting is used. The city of Hull is not just stereotypical sink estates and run down factories, although we do get plenty of these. We also see other aspects of the region: a hamlet in East Yorkshire with its mullion windowed manor house and the bridle paths surrounding the city.
There’s a strong sense of friendship and community that holds this book together. To write anymore about this would be to give too much of the plot away but the book has a big heart and the dominant theme is one of love and solidarity in desperate circumstances.
For those who haven’t read any of Mark’s books, I’d recommend them wholeheartedly. And yes, you can start with this one.
Thanks to Quercus for my review copy. Sorrow Bound is published on the 3rd April.