On a freezing October morning, Detective Inspector Frank Keane is called to the scene of a crime on Liverpool’s shoreline.The body of what looks like a man, brutally tortured and burned, has been tied to a pole on the beach. With very little evidence to go on, Keane and his partner, DS Emily Harris, rely on their gut feeling that this murder is gang-related and their investigation takes them, once again, into the murky underworld of organised crime.Over in Australia, ex-Liverpool Police detective Menno Koopman – Frank’s former boss – is enjoying his retirement. He has no plans to ever return to England but when the body on the beach turns out to be his son, Stevie – whom he only ever met once as a baby – he knows he has to go back and seek justice for his horrific murder. But there’s a fine line between justice and revenge…

 Opening with the discovery of a body against the desolate backdrop of a windswept beach amongst the naked figures of Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ installation, I was instantly engaged with this dark and visceral thriller. The action pivots between Liverpool with the murder investigation under the auspices of DI Frank Keane, a world-weary but utterly realistic detective and Australia, home to Frank’s retired boss Menno Koopman who is forced to return to Liverpool when the victim’s identity is revealed. What struck me most was the singular attention to plotting in this book as dual-sited crime novels are not always perfectly weighted between two locations and due to the author’s personal experience of life in both locations the authenticity rang true throughout. The story seamlessly moves from one side of the globe to the other as the Liverpool investigation leads to the uncovering of a drugs trafficking operation between there and Australia with the relentless pace giving rise to a gripping read as more than one character finds themselves in peril with Chatterton ratcheting up the violence. Not a read for the more faint-hearted I would warn, but personally I loved the more graphic scenes.

Another enjoyable aspect of the book was the dark and earthy characterisation, with Chatterton unafraid to shock and disconcert the reader at every turn, from the unconventional living arrangements of the wonderfully foul-mouthed Menno Koopman to the brilliantly disturbed character of North who, although clever and extremely well-read, is totally psychotic and takes far too much pleasure in meting out violence throughout the book. Our erstwhile hero, Keane is a very well-realised character and it was good to see a focused police officer with little emotional baggage and a healthy disregard for his superiors (with good cause as it turns out) portrayed so realistically, and equally his partner DS Emily Harris, ambitious and hardworking but sometimes confused as to where her loyalties should lie.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the book with the juxtaposition between the mean streets of Merseyside and the rolling serenity of outback Australia and the violence which permeates both societies. With great characterisation, a well-paced plot and a wonderfully seedy edge to the whole affair this was a gripping debut and I, for one, look forward to the next in the series…

Read my Q&A with Ed Chatterton here:

Interview with Ed Chatterton- A Dark Place To Die.

(Thanks to Random House for the advance reading copy)

 

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