Written by Mark Peterson — Debut novel Flesh and Blood earned plaudits for Mark Petersen when it was released last year. The book introduced readers to DS Minter, and he is back – as an acting DI – in A Place of Blood and Bone. If the author – and therefore the character – are new to you, have no fear. You won’t feel as if you’re late to the party as Peterson writes with a light hand and deftly drip-feed Minter’s back story for the benefit of newbies.
The book in opens in 1992, as talented biochemist Martin Blackthorn supplements his grant by working through his summer break from Oxford University, delivering the post around a research facility. He is fascinated by the behavioural science being practised there, until a chance meeting with a strange young boy takes his life and career off onto a very different – and definitely darker – path…
Leap to the present, where Minter is first on the scene at Brighton railway station, where Transport Police have found a suitcase with macabre contents. Yes, it’s the dismembered body of a young woman, minus her head and hands. Who is she? And who was the strange man seen dumping the case in full view of early morning commuters and a CCTV camera? At first a shambling, schizophrenic tramp called Vincent Underhill is firmly in the frame, but when a second mutilated body is discovered while Underhill is in custody, the search is on for a serial killer who combines a chilling intelligence with off-the-scale brutality. Is any woman in Brighton safe?
As if that isn’t enough for Minter and the team, the tension ratchets up another notch with the abduction of the teenage daughter of one of Britain’s best-known TV presenters, who just happens to live on the outskirts of Brighton. The disappearance of Eden Martin may be related to the murders, or just a badly timed coincidence, but either way it adds to the pressure being piled on the local police to get a result – and fast.
Minter is a man with a dark past and he must confront his demons to get to the bottom of this case. Having said that, he is a likeable and realistic character who has been well conceived by the author. DC Vicky Reynolds takes a main supporting role – and it is clear from the book’s conclusion that she and Minter have much further to travel together.
This is a classy police procedural thriller which isn’t for the faint hearted – some of the details are gory and stomach-churning, so best not to read at the breakfast table. The seaside setting leaps off the page, you can almost smell the ozone and hear the seagulls, and the occasional visits to Oxford add interest and variety to the narrative.
Mark Peterson demonstrates great storytelling skill and is well able to hold his own in the world of British thriller writing. I’ve just got one question though – was the inclusion of Freema Angyeman as the name of a minor character done as a bet – or is Peterson a closet Doctor Who fan? For as all Whovians know, Freema played Martha Jones alongside David Tennant. I’m intrigued…
CFL Rating: 4 Stars