There’s no better thrill for a mystery fan than discovering a new author. I’m late to finding David Mark, but that just means I have many great reads now on my list.
Mark spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post. Those streets would become the atmospheric setting for his novels that feature Aector McAvoy, detective sergeant of the Humberside Police’s murder squad. McAvoy’s superior, Trish Pharaoh, gets equal time in this thriller, Dead Pretty, as the two work to solve the deaths of two young women.
McAvoy is married to Roisin, and they have a little girl Lilah. McAvoy loves his wife, but there’s an electricity between him and Pharaoh that cannot be denied and is often picked up by Roisin. McAvoy knows that Pharaoh is overworked and underloved, sparing with a rebellious teenage daughter, Sophia, and caring for a disabled, comatose husband who once abused her. Further complicating Pharaoh’s life is a debt her husband still owes to mobsters, the violent Headhunters, whose primary weapons include a nail gun and blow torch.
This investigation will prove to be particularly challenging, since Pharaoh seems to be keeping secrets and to McAvoy’s horror, actually seems to be falling for their suspect, Reuben Hollow.
Pharaoh once arrested Hollow after he killed a man, a conviction that was later judged to be self-defense and accidental. While spending time in prison, Hollow developed an infatuation for Pharaoh and carved wooden figurines that portrayed her in the nude. When the news got out of that development, Pharaoh’s name was sullied in the media (a romance gone wrong was implied), many attacking her objectivity and professionalism.
McAvoy has been haunted by the deaths of the two young women, especially Hannah Kelly whose body was never discovered. Roisin indulges her husband’s mood swings when he’s preoccupied with the case and even indulges his suggestion that they picnic near the spot where Hannah was last seen. That request might seem ghoulish, but for McAvoy being close to the victim keeps him focused on the case.
Meanwhile, Detective Constable Helen Tremberg is back on the job after giving birth to a baby girl, the result of an assignation in a hotel room after too much vodka at a friend’s wedding. Even if she could remember the bloke’s name, she wouldn’t want him in her life. And she’s completely in love with little Penelope and determined to do the single mom thing while moving up at work. Her chance comes when she finds a series of accidental deaths are suspicious and may be the work of someone determined to off men who have mistreated women. A knight in shining armor or a serial killer? And could this also be the work of Hollow? When McAvoy wants to bring Hollow in for questioning, Pharaoh overrules him, widening the gap between the two colleagues. Bringing him in so soon after his release would give the press a field day, she states, as well as create more trauma for his daughter, Delphine.
Like Michael Connelly, who also worked as a crime reporter before writing the Harry Bosch mysteries, Mark is adept at crafting a terrific police procedural. Dead Pretty will keep you turning the pages and wanting more.
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