Book Review – Dark Winter by David Mark


Dark WInter book coverOfficial Blurb: Hull, East Yorkshire. Two weeks before Christmas, an elderly man – the only survivor of a fishing trawler tragedy 40 years before – is found murdered at sea. In a church, a young girl – the last surviving member of a family slaughtered during the conflict in Sierra Leone – is hacked to death with a machete. A junkie, who fled the burning house where he had set his family alight, is found incinerated on a rundown council estate. Someone is killing sole survivors in the manner they had escaped death. And it falls to Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy of Humberside CID to find out whom. McAvoy, despite being a six-foot-five, man mountain of a police officer, is not your typical bullish detective. A shy, gentle giant, he is a family man obsessed with being a good and decent cop; more dab hand with a database than gung-ho with a gun – traits that have seen him become increasingly isolated from his colleagues in the force. Desperate to prove his worth, McAvoy knows he must establish the motive behind the killings if he is to have any chance of pinning the perpetrator. And he must do so quickly, as this twisted yet ingenious killer appears to have an appetite for murder

What’s it about? It’s about a police hunt for a serial killer.

Where is it set? Set in Hull, which is a fishing port on the east coast of England but the action also travels to Grimsby, Haworth and Leeds.

Who is the main character(s)? The main character is Aector McAvoy, a Scottish detective who has relocated from his Highland home to the run-down, shabby seaside town of Hull.

How well is it written? Very disjointed to begin with, I nearly didn’t carry on with this after the prologue and first chapter. It was written in the current tense which is a device I’m not a huge fan of, but which served its purpose well enough during the chase and fight scenes. I could see the twist in the plot right away and was almost disappointed that I had sussed out the solution before it became obvious in the story. However, the plot made sense (eventually), and the holes in it didn’t detract from the overall narrative.

It’s a shame that the character traits of McAvoy have to be told in the blurb rather than by shown in the narrative, which wasn’t done very well at all I’m afraid. The “family loving gentle giant” of the blurb became a “wishy-washy weak-willed pacifist” in the narrative.

My overall impression? For 20p from Amazon on my Kindle I thought it was a worthwhile time-passer, but I couldn’t really take to the main character even by the end of it. I know that new characters and new series’ take a little while to become established, but usually within a couple of chapters my feelings about the main characters are pretty much formed, but not in this case. I felt that even at the end I couldn’t really be bothered with the main character at all, and the little titbits of subplots were either overdone (the descriptions of the “meeting of eyes and squeezing of thighs” between McAvoy and his superior officer for example) or just not worth bothering with (who cares that his wife is a Traveller?).

I believe that this author has had difficulty in getting published before this book, and I hate to say this, but I can see why. The premise of the story is quite good, but the execution of it was average at best. I can see that the author is making a conscious effort to create a detective who is not the stereotypical maverick that we have come to expect by so many others (Logan MacRae, John Rebus, DI Tom Thorne to name the first three off the top of my head), but we have been given a character that seems almost too good to be true. We don’t even know how to pronounce his first name! The Gaelic is “Aector”, which is open to interpretation, and confusingly we get some characters in the book calling him “Hector”. Why do that?? He doesn’t do the usual stuff of ignoring senior officers to go and do his own thing; he actually does what they say (for once). He is supposed to be a big bear of a man, but the descriptions of him give me the impression that he is a weak character with no backbone. Surely there is scope to create a character that plays it by the book but has a spine too? Why do we have a lead character that plays the goody two shoes card but comes across as wishy-washy and weak?

The hints at sexual tension between McAvoy and his superior officer, Trish Pharoah, are a bit too clumsy. We are led to believe that McAvoy wouldn’t put a moral foot wrong and yet we are subjected to amateurish passages that hint he is only a heartbeat away from ravishing his boss. No. I don’t like that. He’s got to be either one thing or another and attempts to mix him up have just left him as a bit of a nothing character I’m afraid.

Apart from the faults with the main character, the plot in this one took a while to make sense. I don’t understand why the first death was dealt with as a prologue and not as part of the main story. Is it perhaps that this book was written with a TV contract in mind? If so, then the prologue would be the bit before the opening credits, but in the book it didn’t really make sense to me.

Will I read the next in the series? I would be tempted to read the next one if it was offered for 20p again, but only to see if it was any better than the first. The setting in Hull did nothing for me – it could have been Plymouth, or Bristol, or any other run down inner city – and it wouldn’t have made any difference, and the loose threads (the new baby, the non-affair with the boss, the fledgling inclusion in the rest of the squad etc) aren’t really powerful enough for me to hunger after the next one.

Would I recommend it to my friends? Not really. There was nothing offensive in it, but it was a bit weak and there are better books out there. It’s not a bad book for passing the time on holiday or over a rainy weekend, but it’s not a book that would set you alight.

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About Pam Smith

I am a Christian and currently exploring vocation. I am a writer, I conduct a brass band, I am an avid reader and when I'm not doing any of those things I crochet with a fierce passion. I am mum to two fantastic young adults, celebrating my Silver wedding anniversary in 2016 with my husband. I recently gained my Bachelor of Arts with honours.
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5 Responses to Book Review – Dark Winter by David Mark

  1. dogear6 says:

    Thanks for your honesty in the review. I think I’ll pass on trying it out unless you like the second one better. Assuming, of course, it goes on sale.

    Nancy

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    • sterlingsop says:

      You’re welcome Nancy. I’ll let you know if I do ever read the next one and what I make of it. I don’t believe in giving a glowing book review if it’s not worth it, honesty is me!!

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  2. viviellevirgule says:

    I always enjoy your book reviews!

    Just a note that I’ll be absent from the world of reading blogs and commenting until early May. Orthodox Easter isn’t until May 5th this year, so we start Lent on Monday and during Lent I shan’t be reading or commenting on any blogs. I’ll miss your words of wisdom and will look forward to catching up in early May!

    Continued prayers for you and your father-in-law,

    Mary

    P.S. I guess it is rather presumptuous of me to think that you’d even notice that I’m stopping commenting for 7 weeks, isn’t it?

    Like

    • sterlingsop says:

      Of course it isn’t presumptuous!! Thank you for letting me know though or else I’d be wondering what I’d done to lose you. I do love getting into a chat with you via blogging and I’m grateful to you for visiting and commenting as you do. It’s a vital connection for me and I appreciate your kind words and your involvement.

      I trust you have a holy Lent and Easter, and I look forward to renewing our friendship when you return.

      Good bless you, Pam

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  3. David Daniels says:

    I’m half way through the book and enjoying the plot. I can see where you’re coming from with your comments but I don’t feel quite as negative as you. Already looking forward to the next one and i haven’t finished this yet. Yes, it’s got weaknesses but a good basic yarn.

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