Review - Dark Murder, Helen H. Durrant
DARK MURDER is the first book in a new series built around the character D.I. Stephen Greco. Greco first appeared as supporting cast in an earlier series of books by Helen H. Durrant, but now he's mirrored his ex-wife's move to a new town after their divorce, wanting to continue a good relationship with his young daughter Matilda. His new job at Oldston CID starts off with a series of baffling murders, where the brutal disfigurement of the victims seems to be the only connection. Greco instantly has a number of problems when it comes to solving these cases - the lack of a clear motive or connection, and his own team. Made up of what seems to be the district misfits he's under no illusions that part of his new responsibility is to meld this group of detectives together. Or some of them may just find themselves without a job in the future. Not really knowing who he is dealing with on the side of the good or the bad isn't helped by his own particular quirks - including is a mild dose of OCD which he tries desperately hard to hide.
DARK MURDER has a lot of heavy lifting to do as it launches this new series. Introducing Greco, the complications of his personal life, and his personality traits and OCD is quite a lot to start off with. Start adding colleagues with child care problems, drinking, gambling and complete de-motivation as well as problems getting along with other team members, and you get a lot of background to build, establish and provide reader's a way to connect with along the way. Add to that setting up a fictional location, and building a community within that and there's an awful lot of balls in the air. Perhaps that's why it might be obvious that not all good people are perfect, and not all bad irretrievably evil, but it was hard to tell if Greco is intended to be a likeable character who didn't quite hit all his marks or somebody a little more edgy, tricky if you like.
The plot's got some very strong aspects to it, although some of those are let down a little by a tendency to over-explain and a lot of repetition which sucked the pace out at important points. It's obviously not supposed to be that difficult to pick a lot of the who and why in the lead-up to the conclusion, and that could be why the ending seemed somewhat deflated, lacking much in the way of climax or urgency. The concentration instead seems to be very much on setting up the cast and getting them into their location.
DARK MURDER is the first book by Helen H. Durrant that I've been able to read, and whilst there were some quibbles with this outing, some of the drawbacks make sense in terms of that heavy lifting of setting up for an ongoing series. Certainly it's a series this reader would be interested in following - especially if the central character turns out to be a tricky bloke to deal with - have a bit of a weakness for those prickly, difficult types.
A woman is found dead by a canal . . . why have her eyes have been viciously poked out?
Detective Stephen Greco has just started a new job at Oldston CID and now he faces a series of murders with seemingly no connection but the brutal disfigurement of the victims. Greco’s team is falling apart under the pressure and he doesn't know who he can trust. Then they discover a link to a local drug dealer, but maybe it’s not all that it seems.
Can Greco get control of his chaotic team and stop the murders?