Monday, July 6, 2015

Taking Pity (DS Aector McAvoy #4) by David Mark

There is something friendly-sounding about a man with two first names. It is deceptive in one way at least: this police procedural is the fourth the Aector McAvoy series, a U.K. Yorkshire-based crime series, and it curates ways in which one man can hurt another. The skein of characters is tangled by this point in the series, but Mark invites us in with detailed descriptions of Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh and her suspended, injured, retired, or otherwise sidelined crew of detectives and irregulars who help her orchestrate a career-enhancing drug bust and solve a fifty-year-old cold case.

Mark created a literary, character-driven novel firmly based in the Yorkshire area. Gangs have their hands in every kind of wrongdoing, but only within their own little kingdom. East Yorkshire, West Yorkshire have their own fiefdoms and woe to him that tries to muscle in on taken territory. The feeling of containment is so sharp I am not even sure when one thug complains about "them from the South" if he is talking about the southern district of Yorkshire or further south, London.

New to this series as I am, every character had equal weight in my mind until their story starts pulling things in one direction. For that reason, the previously (before this book) wounded "Call me Hector" McAvoy did not feel like center stage in this novel. He had a lot to do with one of the threads, but Detective Superintendent Pharaoh seems central to this installment. She orchestrates the different cases and becomes the target of last resort for our lead thug, Mahon. McAvoy is still too physically and mentally damaged to take the kind of abuse handed out in this novel.

This can be a strong crime series. David Mark certainly has the writing chops to bring us in, tie us down, and scare us silly. I adore stories about Yorkshire rough and watched the Red Riding TV series with relish. There is something particularly sinister and criminal about living high on the hog in a low rent district.

If at first I felt a lack of urgency about the story, gradually the action sped up to meet the demands of a crime novel. I think Mark may have to sacrifice a bit of his descriptive tendencies to the impetus of the storyline. That balance is particularly hard when one is very good at writing detail, and that means details of torture as well. This is where theatre experience might come in handy. We don’t actually need to see (or read) gruesome details of torture. It slows our eye and the story. Our imaginations are quite thorough and frightening enough: just a whiff or suggestion of some kind of harm dilates our pupils and sends our heart rate skyrocketing. I don’t particularly like to linger in this space. I take refuge in the story.

There was one creation that stood out in the lineup of characters in this book: Colin Ray. Blunt and crass and bloody-minded, he could have sprung from the head of Julian Barnes, writing as Dan Kavanagh in the Duffy chronicles or anything (Rebus or Fox) done by Ian Rankin. Ray is funny and furious and embodies a kind of chivalrous cop code that makes us like him even when we recognize his faults. Congratulations to Mark for creating a character that lives in the imagination long and well.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

No comments:

Post a Comment