The Dark Winter

Admit it.  You secretly laugh at patrons in your library who cannot remember author or title, mangling them into some version of a malapropism that you love to tell at the annual Christmas party.

It is not so funny now.  My best friend recommended a title to me as the best crime novel he read in 2012.  While I was working at the desk the other day, the book came across as a return and I nabbed it to read.  So I happily began to read The Dark Winter by David Mark.

Then someone returned The Black House by Peter May and suddenly all those stories I tell about stupid patron tricks don’t seem quite as funny as they used to.


The good news is that I enjoyed my unplanned adventure with Aector McAvoy and the Humberside (England) Police CID Serious and Organized Crime Unit.  David Mark is very adept at hiding many secrets regarding our new series hero McAvoy, even complicating his first name with a Scottish heritage that everyone decides is just going to be Hector.  More importantly, we are told two facts about McAvoy.  First, he is a relatively new addition to the Hull squad because he was involved in taking down a corrupt senior officer in the ranks.  Second, he carries the scars from a wound received in the apprehension of a very bad criminal.

These facts are in odd balance with the real McAvoy:  a giant of a man with a rather quiet exterior presence.  He is presented as a man more skilled with computers and data bases than with the martial arts.  His fellow policeman are unsure of whom they have in their midst and the reader is unsure of whom they are reading about.  This will make a nice combination for developing questions to use for a book discussion. It will also require folks who like this character to keep reading future books to find out the meaning of all the ghosts in McAvoy’s past.

The plot is entertaining while not trying to be a concealed whodunnit puzzle.  Instead, it is a slow unveiling of the consequences of political corruption, taking what comes and being satisfied with any form of justice over finding the actual solution.  McAvoy is forced to abandon his own young son when he hears screams from a church only to have a murderer knock him down, leaving him with a vague description of the man who butchered a young African adoptee in at the altar.  This is not the only instance of abandonment that McAvoy will cause or experience in the course of this novel.  In fact, the very next thing is that a superior office pulls him away from the young girl’s murder to notify a woman that her relative has been found dead floating in a raft off the coast of Iceland.  It all comes together eventually in a well handled thriller-like fashion that will also create questions for a discussion.

And as for me, I still have the anticipated joy of reading the book my friend recommended but I may have to read this blog in order to remember what that title was.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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