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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Deity. Steven Dunne. Headline Publishing Group (2012)

An engaging and enjoyable crime story with superb plot mechanics and an attractive cast. A body is found in a riven  in Derbyshire, an autopsy reveals that he victms lungs had been removed before the body was dumped. When a second body is found with missing internal organs detective Inspector Damen Brook has a considerable problem on his hands. The problems increase with the reported disappearance of a number of students from Derby College, all of whom appear to have vanished in the same way. When a film is released on the internet strongly suggesting that the students have committed suicide the investigation becomes considerably more complicated as the threads of a very nasty story start to twist together. The investigation is thoughtful and careful, the reveals are cunningly set up and the conclusion satisfyingly bitter.
Steven Dunne reveals the dark heart of his story slowly and cunningly, the two major plot threads slowly tie together as the investigation uncovers the sadistic depths that have been hidden in plain sight. The plot mechanics are not very original, the individual aspects have all been used frequently within the genre, they are used with such clever confidence that the the sharp edges that made them so attractive in the first place are revealed again.
The cast give the plot the freshness and urgency that it needs, they are wonderfully well drawn, a wide collection of people most of whom are behaving rather badly. They do so for very credible reasons, rooted in understandable human weakness and fear. The way that Steven Dunne shows how these weaknesses and fears can be exploited by a cold heart matched with a savage appetite gives the book force and depth. The victims are not just markers pointing the route of the investigation, they emerge as individuals in their own right whose death has weight and impact.
The crucial duel that emerges in the story between DI  Brooke and clever and vain owner of the cold heart is smart and gripping. Brooke is interesting, a professional and competent police officer with a severely dented past, he is still credibly functioning as part of a disciplined organisation. His troubles have driven him to greater understanding rather than bitterness and this makes him a more effective investigator.
Steven Dunne takes a considerable risk with the story by choosing to use one of the most well worn cliches in the genre by setting up a villain who chooses to draw attention to their actions as part of their process. With understated skill he then develops the villain so that the actions become credible and horribly meaningful. Smart crime writing like this is a serious pleasure.

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