Written by David Mark — We’ve followed the careers of Hull author David Mark and his police detective Aector McAvoy since the writer’s debut novel back in 2012. Aector McAvoy’s journey began in The Dark Winter, where we met the detective sergeant and his son as they enjoyed a hot chocolate in a cafe in the centre of Hull. What happened next was bloody and shocking, and led Aector and his Humberside Police colleagues on a dark and dangerous adventure. This continued in Original Skin and Sorrow Bound, and here we are with Taking Pity, book four in the series. It appears little has changed…
Once again Aector is alone with son Fin and once again they are in Hull. But an awful lot of water has flowed under the Humber Bridge since then – and a fair bit of it was tainted with blood. In short, whether you are a firm fan or new to the series, you’d do well to prepare yourself for a violent, visceral and wholly engrossing tale that will being the McAvoy and his colleague Trish Pharaoh story bang up to date in ways you never dreamed possible.
Taking Pity begins in March 1966, as a local bobby enjoys a few pints in the village pub after signing off from his shift. Nothing much happens in this far-flung part of East Yorkshire, so when a stranger taps him on the shoulder and says he has heard shots in the church graveyard, John Glass is sure he has a ready explanation – a lad known in the area as Daft Pete has already been told off for firing his shotgun at passing aeroplanes. Nevertheless, Glass goes to investigate and is not surprised to find Peter Coles sitting with his back against a gravestone, gun uncocked across his legs. But Glass is unprepared for the bloodbath that also greets him. Four members of a local family have been gunned down and as Coles stammers an apology, the wheels of justice are set in motion.
Almost 50 years later, Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh is in London to meet with officers from all over the country. Their aim is to collate all the information they have on the notorious gang known as The Headhunters (who were at the heart of Mark’s last book, Sorrow Bound) and bring the sadistic bastards to justice. Well, that’s the theory, but with the Headhunters always managing to be one step ahead of the law, the chances look slim to non-existent. Never one to toe the corporate line, Trish lets her mind wander – after all, she has other, much more important things to worry about, and top of the list is her favourite Detective Sergeant, Aector McAvoy, who is on sick leave and living in a tiny hotel room with his son. To add insult to injury, the hotel is only a few hundred yards away from the home they once shared with wife Roisin and baby Lilah. It is a shattered wreck now, much like Aector himself, and the blame lies firmly at the Headhunters’ door.
But all is not well with the elusive gang, and as Pharaoh desperately tries to peer through the cracks that are appearing in its ranks, McAvoy is given a very different task. Almost 50 years ago, there were those four murders in remote East Yorkshire and the Home Secretary is taking a personal interest in the story of a man locked up under the Mental Health Act all those years ago. He has never stood trial for what he did, but now Peter Coles could well have his day in court. First though, someone needs to follow the trail of evidence and report back – and who better than Aector, whose reputation as a straight arrow goes before him?
The two stories bounce off each other like billiard balls as former crime journalist Mark takes his readers on a dark and desperate ride that at times has you reading through your fingers, open mouthed with shock. This is not a book for the faint hearted, but if you like your crime HD ready, gritty and gripping then it will tick all of those boxes and more. Best of all, we are left with enough loose ends to take us to book five – bring it on!
CFL Rating: 5 Stars