The Dark Winter by David Mark – a review

Ok, well technically this book was not actually finished before the TOPCWF but I did finish it the day I got back so am going to include it.

I saw David Mark at the event I went to at York Library and it was there I picked up a copy of his debut novel The Dark Winter. In Harrogate David Mark was appearing on the New Blood panel. Apparently Val McDermid picks these panellists herself from the many debut novels she gets sent throughout the year. If its good enough for Val its good enough for me!

Based in Hull this is the story of DS Aector (That’s not a typo) McAvoy. McAvoy spends most of his time at a desk creating databases and studying computer data rather than chasing killers. He lives with his pregnant wife and son, who he is almost obsessively in love with. In the story sole survivors are being targeted and then killed in the manner of the accident they survived. For example a man who survived a sinking trawler ship is then drowned. DS McAvoy is the first to link the cases after witnessing the death of a young choir girl from Somalia. With the help of DS Pharaoh, McAvoy tracks down the killer, whilst dealing with the premature birth of his baby, and like all good crime protagonists dealing with the guilt of having narrowely survived a near death experience the previous year.

I really enjoyed the first three quarters of this book but have to admit to getting lost towards the end. That could be more to do with reading it during the excitement of the festival though rather than the writing. It took a little while to get into the flow of this book. Afterwards I realised this was probably due to the unusual writing style. I imagine it would be described as third person present tense although there is probably a more technical term! The text was also very descriptive bordering on flowery which excellent in conjuring up a picture of a rather bleak and depressing town. (As an aside my only memorable visit to Hull was when a friend got hit on the head by a fishhead dropped from a passing seagull)

I got the feeling throughout the book that it had been written with a series in mind, rather than just a one off which is understandable and something I imagine most debut novelists do. I did find the main character quite hard to get to like though, I couldn’t put my finger on it but I just didn’t quite believe in him as a Disney version of ‘Cracker’. I suspect however, thats partly to do with spending 6 months reading nothing but crime so I am more used to a divorced, alcoholic for my central character than this gentle giant.

Overall I thought the story was good and had enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. I look forward to the next McAvoy and think it could be a surprise how much this character may grow on me!

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