This is the third of a series featuring DS Aector McAvoy of the Hull police department. The prologue wastes no time grabbing your attention as we're dropped into the story of a badly burned man running for his life from an ugly mob.
In the present, McAvoy is suffering through another mandatory chat with a police psychologist. So when he's paged by his boss Trish Pharaoh, he flees with relief though it's short lived once he gets an eyeful of the fresh murder scene. The victim is an older woman. She was a popular member of her community & has been horribly mutilated. She won't be the last.
Meanwhile, the cops are also dealing with infighting among various criminal gangs. There's a new wave of drug lord, highly organized & more corporate in nature. Through blackmail, they've cultivated sources on every level of society including the police force. When a package of coke is accidentally left at her friend's store, Aector's wife Roisin makes an impulsive decision & the repercussions will be brutal.
These are the two main story lines but there are several subplots featuring returning characters that are interconnected. DC Helen Tromberg has to deal with the fallout from dating the "perfect" man, DCI Colin Ray is taunted by one of the crime bosses & DI Shaz Archer continues to work full-time at being her usual bitchy ambitious self.
But the main focus is on Aector. As the body count rises, he & the team scramble to find a common thread between the victims, a seemingly disparate group. On the home front he & Roisin are moving into a new house. Between getting up with the new baby & worrying about their finances, Aector is exhausted & starting to lose his grip. His colleagues see him as "Mr. Clean", a by the book type of guy but when his family is threatened, his famous self control begins to crack, revealing a much darker more violent side. This is a man who never really relaxes & shows his true self to anyone, even his wife. They have a complicated history & he enables her childlike behaviour by shielding her from reality.
The plots are complex & following how Aector & Co. connect the victims makes for an engrossing read. A couple of the characters (Archer & Ray) are stereotypical but most are well rounded & believable. In particular, Helen stands out as a sympathetic & likeable young woman who finds herself backed into an ethical corner. Trish comes across as a ballsy, slightly inappropriate career cop juggling the demands of her job & a stressful home life. Roisin's character is an odd mixture of street smarts & naiveté & it was frustrating to watch her make dumb decisions that not only added to Aector's problems but put her family at risk. As for Aector, he's a guy with the weight of the world on his shoulders. As the pressures mount, it feels like just a matter of time 'til he cracks completely & it's not going to be pretty.
This is not a nice, tidy police procedural. The murders are graphic & as in real life, not everyone gets what they karmically deserve. The end leaves some unanswered questions & Aector's future in particular is left in limbo. No doubt fans of this series will be waiting impatiently to snap up the next instalment to see how it all shakes out. All in all, a smart & satisfying read.