Simon Appleyard is alone in his flat awaiting a visitor. Blimey, how do I explain this set-up on a theoretically family-friendly blog? OK, Simon has a hobby – hooking up with strangers, either at specially arranged parties or individually. But this visitor has other plans – and Simon is soon discovered having apparently hanged himself.
Meanwhile Detective Sergeant Aector McEvoy, last seen in (The) Dark Winter, is part of the team investigating an apparent drug war – involving someone with the lovely habit of nailing their enemies’ hands to their knees – but when he discovers messages on a discarded mobile phone drawing his attention to Appleyard’s death, he is drawn into that case – a case that heads into the upper echelons of local government…
Dark Winter was a stunning debut from David Mark – a distinctive fresh voice in the UK thriller genre. And, for my regular readers, I should point out that this is a thriller. Despite there being an important whodunnit element to the story, this doesn’t try to be a fair play mystery. To be honest, I’m rather glad that it doesn’t.
Mark’s writing style is hypnotic – written in the present tense, getting into the thoughts of most of the protagonists – not just the police, but the supporting cast and the victims – and, impressively, each of these characters comes across as a distinct individual. This stands out in particular with the character of Suzie, a young woman being hunted by the killer, whose lifestyle is completely alien to me, and, I imagine, most of the readers of this book, but you come away completely understanding her perspective.
By the way, there are a few particularly intense sections of the narrative – in particular the first chapter – and I imagine some readers may well get to the end of the first chapter unsure whether to continue. I say that because I was in two minds myself. I urge any squeamish readers to push on. Because this is an outstanding, mesmerising read that deserves your attention.