SOMETIMES a complex thriller can spiral into an unfathomable web of tangled plotlines … unless, of course, the devilishly devious Steven Dunne is directing the action.
The brilliant ‘Reaper’ series, featuring the brooding, maverick police detective Damen Brook, has become cult reading and The Unquiet Grave, a twisting and turning, tense and tingling rollercoaster mystery, sees crime master Dunne at the top of his game.
These fast-paced thrillers, exceptional in their clever plotting, superb characterisation and psychological intensity, always dig deep into the darkest corners of humanity… and inhumanity.
Set in the city of Derby, Dunne’s stories star the memorable Damen Brook, a copper on the wrong side of 50 who is haunted by past failures, has more than his fair share of personal baggage and is driven by an unmoveable sense of justice.
Abrasive, straight-talking and recklessly rude, the former Met officer lives life on the edge, has few friends and makes enemies with alarming ease and rapidity, but he is also exceptionally astute and worries his cases like a dog with a bone.
After five months off work – partly to recover from injuries suffered in his last gruelling case and partly through suspension – Detective Inspector Brook is preparing to return to his job with Derby Constabulary.
There’s only one person looking forward to seeing Brook again and that’s Chief Supt Charlton, his boss and nemesis, but only so that he can tell his DI that he has been assigned to shuffling through papers in the windowless offices of the Cold Case crime department.
Brook is regarded as a loose cannon and the chiefs think routine work in a dismal basement will be the best place for him. And it certainly does feel like a morgue to Brook, who has been seriously considering ‘falling on his sword,’ but he won’t go down without a fight.
Working alongside retired copper Clive Copeland, whose life and career have been driven by the unsolved murder of his teenage sister Tilly decades ago, Brook applies his instincts and razor sharp intelligence and sees a pattern in a series of murders that seem to begin in 1963.
But how could a killer, and possibly a serial killer, have gone undetected for so long and why are his superiors so keen to drive him down blind alleys?
As fellow officers investigate the disappearance of the friend of a boy murdered only 12 months ago, Brook delves into the past of both suspects and colleagues unsure where the hunt will lead him. But what he does know for sure now is that a significant date is fast approaching and the killer is certain to strike again...
There is a veritable patchwork quilt of story threads in The Unquiet Grave but each section is neatly stitched into its rightful place, each intriguing strand of plot, whether it is based in the past or the present, leads us deeper and deeper into the totally connected, and satisfyingly complete, finished article.
Dunne excels at portraying real psychological terror and this gripping tale of cruelty unleashed is no exception, but his gift is to offset the grit and darkness with thrilling twists, astute social observation, a cast of finely drawn leading players and authentic police procedural detail.
Always expect the unexpected when DI Brook is on the case…
(Headline, hardback, £19.99)