Original Skin by David Mark

Following the successful Dark Winter, this is the second outing for the freckled, flame-haired warrior DS Aector McAvoy, and this sequel lacks none of the punch of the first- I would dare to say that I actually enjoyed this one more. This is an altogether darker and seedier affair from the outset, beginning with a particularly brutal murder that sparks a complicated and taxing investigation for McAvoy. When the investigation diverges into the world of local politics and police monitoring, it soon becomes clear that all is not as it would appear, causing McAvoy and his superior officer DI Pharoah to navigate their way through a world of secrets and lies. Despite the thrust of the main investigation there is also ample time for McAvoy’s horse-whispering skills and bare knuckle fighting as you will discover…

I’ve really taken to the character of the slightly lumbering but incredibly thoughtful and moral McAvoy and as I’ve said before it’s nice to see a police character not totally encumbered by the stresses of their private lives or less savoury habits. Despite the small blips caused by his marriage to Roisin who hails from a traveller background, McAvoy has the luxury of being able to pursue his police career relatively painlessly. He is a ruminator to the highest degree, much to the chagrin of his impulsive boss Pharaoh, and has an inherent compassion for people that leads him to not falling prey to snap judgements. He is what is known in the trade as a nice bloke, that consequently makes him an altogether nicer police officer if at times slightly too ponderous. His boss Pharoah, who I have compared in a previous review to a watered down DI Steele from Stuart MacBride’s series, lacks none of this hesitation. She is bold, impulsive, brash and completely brilliant! Her interplay with the diametrically opposite McAvoy is a joy, and transmits a sense of fun from Mark in the way they bounce off each other, but never losing sight of the fact of the effectiveness of their teamwork and this was one of my favourite aspects of the book.

As I referred to in my review of Dark Winter, the setting of Hull is perfectly rendered throughout the book. Like other Northern based crime novels, this book reads as a twisted appreciation of a city down on its luck through years of urban degeneration, but still carrying at its heart an indominitable spirit. McAvoy is used as a mouthpiece for this obviously encountering the worst aspects of life that this formerly prosperous city has to offer, but appreciating the essential heart and soul of the city. In reflection of its setting, this is a particularly dark tale drawing on the more unusual activities of people’s sexual behaviour, and I must confess I did enjoy the bloody outcome of a misjudged night of dogging- see now you’re intrigued! As the plot unfolds there are dark revelations indeed emanating from those in positions of responsibility and the unwitting victims of their personal depravations, all hedged by Mark’s firm control of the novel as an entirely satisfying police procedural. Overall a good read and I’m looking forward to the next foray into McAvoy’s world.

This post was submitted by Raven.