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McGuire, Matt - 'Dark Dawn'
Trade Paperback: 256 pages (Apr. 2012) Publisher: Corsair ISBN: 1780332254

Acting Detective Sergeant John O'Neill, is the lead detective in a case of locating the killer of an unknown male teenager. The corpse was discovered on a building site and had been brutally knee-capped before death occurred. There was nothing in the clothing or anywhere else to confirm the identity of the remains which was most baffling to O'Neill. The detectives question all who worked on the site and all in the vicinity with no success. After reference to his superiors, O'Neill alerted the local media, newspapers, radio and TV but no one comes forward with any news. Detective Inspector Ward is O'Neill's immediate superior and he has complete faith in his less experienced junior officer. Ward is expecting to retire next year so he wants O'Neill to be responsible for this case, but the younger man is having a lot of trouble getting any leads. The police suspect someone in the criminal community must know who the deceased is and they start stopping young tear-a-ways in the streets and taking them back to the cop shop for deeper questioning which makes the "Peelers" very unpopular.

In this multifaceted fine police procedural, alternate chapters detail the day to day lives of some young "hoodies", Marty and Petesy, involved in the drugs trade and how they hope to make a big score from a new source of illegal substances. It details in quite raw and graphic language the difficulties they face in getting on with this new start-up business; the problems they face locating new clients and dealing with other drug pushers are gone into in some detail.

John O'Neill is having a lot of trouble finding new information and justifying his status as a new detective to Chief Inspector Wilson who telephones him every day for a progress report. Wilson doesn't understand why O'Neill was ever promoted to Detective from uniforms and keeps threatening to demote him if he doesn't produce results. This description of the pompous Wilson reminds me of the character "Superintendent Mullett" in the Frost series by RD Wingfield. O'Neill is also having problems with his wife who has left him, taking their child, six months previously. All this stress is having a poor effect on O'Neill performance. As he works shifts, he often spends all the time going over and over the known facts and checking what he may have missed. He finds his night shift particularly conducive to deep examinations of the crime scene.

The relatively short book moves on with a much emphasis on the flaws and idiosyncrasies of this compelling new detective. O'Neill is a great creation and it's not long before the various independently crafted plot strands satisfyingly mesh in the dramatic conclusion.

This exposition of the rough underbelly of the new Northern Ireland dramatically illustrates the toughness present in a society with its problems of protection rackets, criminal corruption and religious bigotry. I enjoyed this riveting police procedural immensely and believe this new writer has tackled a tough subject with a deftness of touch unexpected in a debut novel. Its seamless plotting compelled me to keep reading and I look forward to reading more stories of equal intensity from Matt McGuire.

Terry Halligan, England
April 2012

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 7/04/2012 21:36