Source: Review copy
Publication: 30 September 2021 (h/back) 1 Nov 2021 Ebook
My thanks to Severn House for a review copy
DS Aector McAvoy must face the dark, disturbing secrets of his past if he’s to keep his family safe.
The clairvoyant is found with her tongue crudely carved out, a shard of blue crystal buried deep within her mangled ribcage.
The crime scene plunges DS Aector McAvoy back twelve years, to a case from when he was starting out. An investigation that proved a turning point in his life – but one he’s tried desperately to forget.
To catch the killer, he must face his past. Face the terrible thing he did. But doing so also means facing the truth about his beloved wife Roisin, and the dark secrets she’s keeping have the power to destroy them both completely.
If like me, you like to read a series from the beginning, then this book is actually a rather good place to begin. It goes back to the beginning of Aector McAvoy’s relationship with his now wife, Roisin and straddles a dual timeline between those days 12 years ago and the present day.
McAvoy is such a brilliant character; you can’t, as a reader, help but love him. Big, beefy, ginger, prone to blushing and as irretrievable in love with his Irish traveller wife Roisin as he ever was. Now they have two children, Fin and Lilah and already Lilah is exhibiting signs that she may be more of a seer than Roisin. McAvoy is a DS in Hull. Working with his boss, the irascible, chain-smoking Trish Pharoah.
I’m a huge fan of Mark’s writing. He is dark and visceral; his descriptions zing with the bloody authenticity of a crime scene and there’s a sense of repressed violence bubbling under the surface that erupts from time to time, never failing to make you wince. At the same time he writes about love and tenderness in a way that makes you long to experience it and that’s how he gets you to care quite so much for his characters.
In Past Life, McAvoy is troubled. Troubled because he knows Roisin is keeping secrets from him. He’s almost afraid to ask; wants to give her time to tell him herself, but is afraid she is not going to do so. Then Dymphna Lowell is murdered in her cottage on the Humber – a forlorn place that offers little comfort to the sightseer. She was giving a reading to a new client and something clearly displeased them about her interpretation of the future because she has been savagely attacked.
This death is reminiscent of another event in McAvoy’s past and it connects Roisin to this crime. As we discover more about how Roisin and McAvoy met , we also learn more about Roisin and her Traveller family and history – and an age old feud between two long standing tribes that has never dissipated.
Roisin’s aunt, also a fortune teller, was savagely murdered and there are prickles on the back of Roisin’s neck when she hears about this murder. Something wicked is coming and Roisin knows it’s coming for her.
The interplay between Roisin and Trish Pharoah is delightful to watch. Two women vying for the affection and loyalty of one man – in different ways, for sure, but each wanting to be the stabilising centre of his world. We learn more about Trish Pharoah’s backstory, too, in this book and it helps to better understand her.
David Mark’s books are redolent with atmosphere and the bleakness of the Humber estuary and Sink Island stand out. His murders are bloody and viscous, but his capacity to illustrate and capture love and tenderness as a contrast is second to none.
The strands of 12 years ago are woven into the strands of the present day and cannot be undone. There is an inevitability to this battle that you know is going to be violent and cruel; the only question is who will survive and at what cost?
Verdict: This is writing that grabs you by the throat and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s tense, thrilling and sometimes makes your heart thump a bit too hard as you await the outcome of a battle you know is going to end in death. If you’ve not read any of this series, I’d strongly recommend you start. By all means start with the first in the series, but this, too is a good entry point. Whatever you decide, I recommend this series very highly. Writing like this is superb and does not come along often enough.
David Mark spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post – walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the internationally bestselling Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.His writing is heavily influenced by the court cases he covered: the defeatist and jaded police officers; the inertia of the justice system and the sheer raw grief of those touched by savagery and tragedy