The supertanker Carla. Seventy miles off the Icelandic coast. One last interview, here in the galley, with its stink of fried food and burned coffee, its diesel and sea-spray; the deep, bass-note hum of unwashed men and wet wool. So many memories …
Closes his eyes and it hits him like a wave. For an instant, he is a young man again, starting an eighteen-hour shift, pulling on a jumper stiff with fish guts and slime. He’s warming his hands on a mug of tea when he’s not spooning enough porridge into his gob to fill his belly. He’s hurting. Trying to convince himself his hands are his own. He’s hearing the skipper’s voice. The urgency of his cries. He’s swinging the hook. The hatchet. Chopping at the ice. Hacking it free in lumps that could stove your skull in if you weren’t quick on your feet. He’s feeling the ship begin to go … ‘The sound of the wind,’ he says, and in his coat pocket he feels his fingers make the sign of the cross, genuflecting on the smooth, silky surface of the packet of Benson and Hedges.
observations: Dark Winter was much talked about by crime fiction fans last year, and for good reason. It’s the first of a new series: police procedural, distinctive hero, and specific regional setting – there are plenty of series like that (and some of them are very good) but this one promises really well. Aector McEvoy has many of the usual traits – present tense narration, backstory, rugged appearance, family life (though it’s nice that he has a happy homelife, unlike most cops and PIs in books) – and is plainly going to have an eventful relationship with his boss.
The plot is clever – what can link the old fisherman above with the young girl hacked to death in a church before Christmas? The writing - like the B&H packet described perfectly above - and characterisation are marvellous. McEvoy’s boss
scares the hell out of the younger male officers, to whom she exudes a certain best-mate’s-mum kind of sexiness.And the sense of place is terrific, from the bustling city centre just before Christmas to the rough estate:
Two children of no more than seven years old are playing on the only equipment in the little swing park not to have been vandalised beyond use. The joy of seeing the two boys laughing with glee as they push each other around on the roundabout is tempered by the fact they are both smoking. ‘Not exactly Tenerife out there, is it, lad?’Looking forward to reading the next one in the series.
The book has recently been reviewed at Col’s Criminal Library.
Links on the blog: Plenty of other crime fiction – click on the tab above. Trawlermen in a more innocent setting in a children’s book here. Going fishing in Scotland here, with a wonderful picture.
This photo is from the National Maritime Museum.