Aector McAvoy and Hull go together like local dish pattie and chips. So why oh why would you want to transport this great, galumping, awkward, prone-to-blushing, gorgeous, super-talented lump of a policeman to, of all places, New York City?
It’s an almighty gamble for David Mark, but that’s precisely what he does in this, number six in the McAvoy novel series. And in truth, in the first few chapters it begins to look like a mistake. McAvoy is a bit of an outsider at the best of times; in New York he seems completely out of his depth.
He is in the Big Apple in search of a missing Irishman. Highly respected boxing trainer Brishen Ayres and two of his protoges, Shay Helden and Valentine Teague, flew in a couple of weeks ago. Now Shay is dead, Brishen is in hospital, horribly disfigured and in a coma, and Valentine is nowhere to be found. And that’s the problem, because Valentine is McAvoy’s brother-in-law. As anyone who has read any of the previous novels knows, McAvoy will do absolutely anything for his wife, Roisin.
But as he compares notes with NYPD Detective Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Alto, McAvoy begins to seriously doubt whether he can grant Roisin’s wishes this time, and bring her brother home. He isn’t even sure whether Valentine is alive or dead, and it soon becomes clear that this case is anything but simple. Before the tale is told, our man will have had dealings with all manner of dodgy characters, from mafia men to Chechens and plenty in between.
Your doubts will be dispelled when McAvoy finally gets together with his boss and best mate, Trish Pharoah. True, she is only Skyping him from her house in Grimsby, but suddenly the team is back in tandem and anything looks possible. Two heads are better than one, after all. There are myriad dark, disturbing and downright stomach-churning moments in this book, but when ‘Hector’ (as she insists on calling him) and Trish are working together there is a palpable light in the darkness. Their chats are always entertaining and a perfect demonstration of Mark’s uncanny ear for dialogue.
He also manages to create a wholly recognisable New York too, avoiding tourist cliches and getting to the city’s beating heart. But still McAvoy, and his many readers, will miss Hull and its gritty northern vibe.
There’s a religious undertone to all the action, and this thread proves to be the most disturbing of all, with self-flagellation, confession, forgiveness, pentence and serial killings making an appearance.
David Mark and his character McAvoy hit their stride by about halfway through and lead us through a many-layered story which requires a fair degree of concentration. But that’s not a bad thing, as it pulls you in deeper and then refuses to let go. Revelations come thick and fast as the end approaches – and there is some neat plotting on show before everything is sorted out.
It makes a change to take a well-loved character out of his comfort zone and see how he reacts. McAvoy has his moments, but deep down he is still the same old reliable, by-the-book cop and he is never going to change, no matter where he is based. The author works hard to nail his new setting, though on occasion there seems some confusion about whether the book has been written with a UK or US market in mind and this muddies the UK/US divide on which it could thrive.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars