Review: David Mark – The Dark Winter

The Dark WinterThis is a book where I feel that I am one of the last people to read it in the UK, so extensively has it been reviewed. And the reviews have been almost universally positive for The Dark Winter, the début from Hull author David Mark. Time constraints have been my main reason for not opening the book before now, although on my copy there was an annoying sticker which proclaimed ‘As good as Peter Robinson or your money back’. This marketing ploy clearly isn’t the author’s fault, but every time I picked it off my  bookshelf, I would see the sticker and put it down again. However I finally read the book this week and enjoyed what was a well written and uncomfortable thriller.

Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy is a detective who loves his wife and child and is struggling to find a place for himself within the Hull police. Following an incident, where a known maverick policeman lost his job, he is unpopular with his colleagues and sidelined into a job involving spreadsheets. When he witnesses the murder of a young girl from Sierra Leone he becomes drawn into a case that may be racially motivated. The girl was a the only survivor of a machete attack in her native country and it seems a cruel irony that she became a victim of the same type of killing in Britain. However, when the only survivor of a decades old fishing accident is drowned, and then a drug-addict who was the sole person who escaped a family fire is burnt to death, it becomes clear that a murderer is obsessed with eliminating those who have been lucky enough to survive previous tragedies.

This is an unusual premise and one that could have seemed too sensational or screamed ‘serial killer’ but I found the book to be more restrained than that. This is mainly because of the depth of characterisation which means that the focus of the narrative is on the people involved rather than the deeds committed. Aector is in love with his family and draws from them the support that he needs to go about his working life. There is an interesting back story to how he and and his wife Roisin met and she also plays a pivotal role in the story. His boss, the exuberant mother-of-four Trish Pharoah is also an interesting character, alternatively supportive and exasperated with Aector. The victims are also given plenty of depth, not always the case in a crime novel, even if it is retrospective in relation to the dead girl.

The writing was very assured and although I groaned when I saw it was written in the present tense, I did get into the narrative quickly. I suppose the plot was ultimately slightly over the top but it didn’t spoil the book for me and the characters were interesting enough to keep me reading this series.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. Reviews can be found at It’s A Crime, Raven Crime Reads, Eurocrime and Shots. The book has also been chosen as a Richard and Judy read for the spring.

21 thoughts on “Review: David Mark – The Dark Winter

  1. Good review Sarah and like your analysis of the strong characterisation. I read and reviewed this a while ago and I enjoyed it- liked the use of a different UK setting. Just got a proof of the follow-up which I am keen to read as well.


  2. Pingback: David Mark- The Dark Winter « Raven Crime Reads

  3. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – An excellent review as ever. I think you’ve put your finger on something really important: strong and solid characters can add so much depth to a novel. I’m glad you found that to be the case here. And as to that book sticker? Please, oh please don’t get me started on those things…


  4. This is another book my husband bought recently. Neither of us has read it. I am getting luckier lately because he is buying more crime fiction I want to read also. We both spend way too much on books.

    This is a great review; tells me a lot about the book without telling too much and spoiling it. I am also uncomfortable with present tense, but I got used to it with The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, so I guess it is OK if the story telling is good.


    1. Yes I agree Tracy that I can put up with the present tense if the writing is good. But I do find it harder to read than the past tense and I sometimes wonder why writers want to put up a barrier between them and their readers. But it can work well – Thomas Enger does it successfully too.

      Glad to hear your husband is buying more crime fic!


  5. Well this seems to have passed me by – this is the first I’ve heard of it, I think! Sounds good though. I completely agree with you about those pesky stickers, the Scandinavian crime authors seem to be worst affected. Jo Nesbo is “the new Steig Larsson”, Camilla Lackberg is “if you like Jo Nesbo you’ll love this”, there’s just a never-ending chain of them!


    1. Yes Scandi crime is the most guilty for this kind of thing. The trouble is, I could’t see any connection with Peter Robinson at all. Someone being creative with their marketing I think.


  6. Sarah, the first thing that came to my mind after reading your fine review is the unusual storyline and the equally unusual names of characters…Aector McAvoy, Roisin, Trish Pharoah. Today, writers are getting innovative with the names, like parents with their newborns. The family element is appealing too—a sign of the times, I think, as far as crime-fiction goes.


    1. Yes they are unusual names Prashant and a couple reflect I think the back story of the characters. The family element added an unusual dimension to the plot and I agree that we’re seeing this more in crime fiction.


  7. Chandra Lawrie

    This one does sound good. I am finishing up Blood Land by R.S. Guthrie and it has been really good. Along the lines of this on as it’s about a town’s local police and what not, but far more to it than that. Guthrie has a couple other books that are good to if anyone is looking for some new reading ideas. if you want to take a look. Thanks for giving me a new one to add to my growing list!


  8. Pingback: The Best of January’s Reading « crimepieces

  9. Pingback: Review: David Mark – Sorrow Bound | crimepieces

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.