Written by Howard Marks — Still recovering from the trauma of her last case – as told in Howard Marks’ crime fiction debut, Sympathy For The Devil – Welsh detective DS Catrin Price has been consigned to the ignominy of admin duty. She spends her days number crunching, and her nights fighting off the demons that come with going cold turkey to beat a tranquilliser addiction. So when she starts to receive cryptic messages to her personal mobile number, she is more than a little spooked.
The sender is an old school friend whose daughter has gone missing, and as Caitlin begins the search, she uncovers links to other vanished teenagers – and to an enigmatic man sitting at the pinnacle of a lucrative drugs empire.
Drugs lord Griff Morgan was captured in a high profile bust by none other than Cat’s boss, Kyle. Now he has terminal cancer, and is let out of jail on compassionate grounds. Two of the missing girls turn up dead, and beside their badly mutilated bodies are clues pointing to Morgan as the culprit. But as he was in a high security prison at the time and is now too frail to even leave the house unaided, the markers seem spurious, even malicious.
Feeling under par and out on a limb, Cat’s investigation eventually leads her from Wales to the mean streets of London, and into some pretty dangerous situations. So, her martial arts skills come in handy. The trouble is, everyone seems to have a hidden agenda, and Cat – and therefore the reader – soon learns not to take anybody at face value.
During the mid-1980s author Howard Marks was a notorious drugs baron himself, with scores of aliases. At the height of his career he was smuggling consignments of up to 30 tons of marijuana, and had contact with organisations as diverse as MI6, the CIA, the IRA and the mafia. Following a worldwide operation by the Drugs Enforcement Agency he was captured and sentenced to 25 years in prison, getting out in 1995 after serving seven years of his sentence. So this is a man who should know about drugs operations.
I’m a Howard Marks newbie and wasn’t sure what to expect here. His debut was feted and I found the character of Cat Price interesting and well drawn. She’s a tough broad with a well hidden soft centre and a love of fast motorbikes, so plenty of ticks from me. The Radiohead song Street Spirit also links much of the action, and I caught myself humming it as I read. However, I found the plot somewhat disjointed. The storyline jumps back and forth between the sad, diary-style notes of an isolated teenager intent on pop stardom, and the current-day investigation… and the final reveal was a bit of a let-down that left me with more questions than answers.
I’m sure we will be hearing plenty more of Cat Price – and I’d be happy to make her acquaintance again – but hopefully it will be in a better vehicle than The Score.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars