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Sorrow Bound by David Mark -a review

I first met David Mark in 2012 when he appeared in the New Blood panel. As I’ve often said if it’s good enough for Val McDermid then it’s good enough for me, and this was no exception. Since his first appearance back in Harrogate David Mark has become one of my favourite authors.

Sorrow Bound is the third book to feature Aector McAvoy. The detective is settling into a new house with his wife Roisin and their two children as he struggles to oversee his team of detectives who are all coming apart at the seams. There are two separate storylines running through this novel. There is a series of murders that link back to an old case. Then there is also a new drug gang in town that McAvoy’s wife accidently gets caught up with.

I thought Sorrow Bound, like the previous two novels was excellent.  It’s very dark and violent which is exactly how I like crime novels to be sometimes. It is set in Hull which is a city I don’t know well  (apart from a trip with a friend a few years ago, the most memorable bit of which was a fish nearly landing on my friends head) but it is always nice to read stories set outside London. It’s difficult to review more of the story without giving any spoilers away but it was a fast paced read with plenty of twists and turns. The ending itself however is a real cliff hanger that disappointed me slightly as I can’t wait to find out what’s next.

One of the things that makes David Mark stand out for me is the actual writing. The descriptions add an extra depth to the story that makes this different to a lot of the usual novels. When I read I skim read a lot as I’m always anxious to find out what’s next (sorry that must be annoying for authors to hear as they agonise over every word they write) With this series I really feel like every word is important and should be savoured.

The main character of McAvoy’s is of course flawed and the story starts with him having to see the forces psychologist. However he is also a loving husband and father who is trying his best to keep his family safe and not let his job colour their lives. It makes a change to have a detective who isn’t a single man with his only friend a bottle of whisky. All the characters in this series are seemingly well rounded but with faults just like us all which makes this more than just a story about a crime but also a good reflection on the human race.

I mentioned before I am a big fan of David Mark and would definitely recommend his novels especially if you like gruesome well written stories. As always another great find from the new blood panel.

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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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