Written by David Mark — We have reviewed the Aector McAvoy novels ever since the first, The Dark Winter, appeared in November 2012. Dead Pretty is number five in the series (there’s also been a short story, A Bad Death) and it’s fair to say that life in the city of Hull hasn’t got any easier for the men and women of Humberside Police.
Nor for the area’s inhabitants, it would seem. Hannah Kelly has been missing for nine months, while Ava Delaney has been dead for just five days. The fate of both young women weighs heavy on the mind of police detective McAvoy. In fact, his interest in the Kelly case borders on the obsessive, to the point that he insists on taking his wife Roisin and two children on picnics in the area where she was last seen.
But that’s Aector McAvoy for you. Stubborn, dogged and straight as a die, he isn’t about to let either of the women fall off the radar. Which is why the attitude of his boss, Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh is so worrying. She’s never been one to stick to the straight and narrow, but now Trish seems to be heading completely off piste. She’s in the firing line when the murder charge against enigmatic and strangely attractive sculptor Reuben Hollow is dropped, so what’s she doing going to his isolated cottage, flirting and behaving so out of character?
The fact that she’s drinking to excess may have something to do with it and it certainly worries her right hand man, but Aector has other fish to fry. For starters, he is left handling a murder inquiry, apparently with no support from his boss. Not ideal for a man who prefers to stay out of the limelight – and then is forced to take centre stage when developments in the Hannah Kelly case come perilously close to home…
I’ve loved Aector since the very beginning. He’s awkward, loyal, hard working and a devoted family man. This could make him a pretty dull lead character, but I forgot to add that he’s also a magnet for trouble. In Dead Pretty he actually lets his hair down a bit, cracking the odd feeble joke and talking back to people. I love him even more! But this is also the book where author David Mark lets Roisin McAvoy have her wings – and boy, does she put them to good use! I laughed out loud when this tiny firebrand took on the might of the Humberside Police top brass and won. It’s probably my favourite scene in a book which has many to choose from.
This series started with a bang that has never quite been matched in subsequent McAvoy and Pharaoh novels. I’m happy to report that Dead Pretty hits the target on all levels. It’s the kind of dark and desperate take we’ve come to expect from the pen of David Mark, with great splashes of humour that lighten the gloom no end. It’s a rare book that has you cringing on one page and giggling the next.
Prepare to be dragged on the undercurrent as the plot swirls and eddies like the Humber estuary and is just as murky. Yes, there are twists aplenty, but none so dramatic as the final reveal which had me gulping in surprise. This is a book that will do plenty to boost tourism in the pretty rural areas surrounding the city of Hull, which play a vital role to the story and are lavishly drawn in glorious Technicolor. I also expect sales of lady shavers to reach unheard of levels. I’m saying no more – read the book and you’ll understand what I mean!
CFL rating: 5 stars