I have something very exciting for today’s review! I was able to ask David Mark some questions about his latest novel Dead Pretty – keep reading to find out more about the characters and the series!
From the blurb:
Hannah Kelly has been missing for nine months. Ava Delaney has been dead for five days.
One girl to find. One girl to avenge. And DS Aector McAvoy won’t let either of them go until justice can be done.
But some people have their own ideas of what justice means…
Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy is a 6ft 6 red headed scotsman with muscles a plenty, but a gentle giant underneath it all. He is investigating the disappearance of a bubbly, innocent young woman called Hannah Kelly when he is called to another crime scene where alternative girl Ava Delaney has been brutally murdered.
Hannah disappeared 9 months ago, and Ava has been dead 5 days, but McAvoy senses that there is a link between what happened to the two women, he just can’t quite see it.
At the same time, McAvoy’s boss DSI Trish Pharaoh is having some problems of her own; her daughter just called her a fat cow, she’s got some unsavoury characters calling in her paralysed husband’s debts and an ex-con keeps leaving nude sculptures of her on her doorstep. Not to mention the fallout from a prosecution that was overturned…
I haven’t previously read any of the books in this series and I have to say I’m impressed! The writing is descriptive, the characters are well rounded – particularly the female characters- the villains are nasty, and yet you also feel quite sympathetic towards them. Also, all the important character traits and back stories are mentioned in the book, so you can jump straight into the series without reading all the previous novels.
David Mark portrays the investigation into these women’s death/disappearance in an honest and believable way; it doesn’t feel exaggerated and the characters feel like real people. My favourite characters were Trish and Roisin, McAvoy’s wife, who is an Irish ex-traveller and doesn’t take crap from anyone. I love her.
The novel takes place around the Hull area, so I am familiar with a number of the locations mentioned. I love it when novels are set in Yorkshire, and this book really captures the bleak beauty of the area.
As promised, here are David’s answers to my questions:
1. First of all, I’ve never read a DS McAvoy novel before, and I was really impressed that there were physical and personality descriptions for all of the main characters, as well as information about the key events that had taken place. Is this something that you consider when writing the book, so that people can jump into the series at any point? (I will now be adding the previous books to my Goodreads list)
As the series moves along it becomes trickier to know how much information to include each time. They are intended to be read as standalone novels but there is an ongoing story arc as well so the fact that you think I’ve got it right pleases me immensely. I owe you an éclair.
2. I really love that this series is based in Yorkshire; I’m originally from Yorkshire, so I recognised a few of the locations described in the book. What made you decide to base your series in Hull?
I was a journalist in Hull for a long time and have seen the best and the worst of the city. I know the people and the city itself is perfect for the kind of dark, poetic descriptions that bleed into my work. I just understand the place, I think. It’s taken a lot of beatings. It’s bled a lot. There’s a darkness here. We’re a match made somewhere – not necessarily in Heaven.
3. I’ve read that you used to be a crime journalist; does this experience come in handy when writing about police procedures or do you do additional research? If so, what type of research do you do?
It’s crucial. I’m not obsessive about meticulous research because no two investigations are run the same way. But the journalistic experience allows me to draw on a deep reservoir of human connections. I’ve been in those awful rooms where families have learned that the body pulled from the river is their loved one. I’ve spoken to grieving parents in the moments after the drunk driver who killed their daughter has been given a two-year suspended sentence and walked from court with a laugh. The procedural stuff is pretty basic, to be honest. But the connection between human beings and the authenticity of their feelings – that’s where I hope my writing feels more real.
4. There are a number of really strong, complex female characters in this book, including 2 female Detective Chief Inspectors, which is brilliant! Where do you find your inspiration for these characters, and are they based on real people?
Thankyou. I do enjoy writing strong female characters – especially McAvoy’s boss and best friend, Trish Pharaoh, who pretty much writes her own lines and always makes me laugh. I think there is a little bit of certain coppers in every character I write but as the series has gone on they have evolved into something more than that. Having been fortunate enough in my life to know quite a lot of women pretty well, I think it would be ludicrous to create a female character who wasn’t passionate, neurotic, clever, angry, joyous, riddled with self-doubt and suffused with a desperate desire to please. I like my art to reflect real life …
5. The main character in Dead Pretty is DS Aector McAvoy. First of all how do you pronounce “Aector”, secondly, what made you want to write about a scotsman living in Yorkshire?
You sort of say ‘Ecktor’ but with a tiny cough in the middle. There’s only his dad and his wife who can get it right. He settles for Hector everywhere else. I created him because the books I wrote for years were always rejected by publishers on the grounds they were ‘unremittingly bleak’. There was no redemption, no light. The last desperate throw of the dice needed some goodness at its heart. Step forward McAvoy – 6ft 6”, red haired, muscles like a popsock full of grapefruits and a propensity for blushing. Where he came from is something of a mystery but I’m rather pleased that we met.
6. The main character DS McAvoy is investigating 2 cases where there have been pretty horrific crimes committed against women. You understand that McAvoy is struggling with the horrible acts people commit, and yet there is also a sense of almost apathy from the detectives, because this is something that they deal with day in and day out. Is this something that you experienced as a crime journalist?
Completely. It’s impossible to cover a series of murders and not experience some form of compassion fatigue. It’s human nature. You almost find yourself comparing this week’s slaying to the better one last week. That’s the nature of the job. I find it interesting, which is why the two ‘victims’ in Dead Pretty seem to have so little in common. One is a lot easier to feel sorry for – but they are both vibrant young things snatched away in their prime. Aector wonders all the way through the book why he feels such a connection to Hannah Kelly, this ‘good’ girl who disappeared months ago. He gives himself a hard time about whether or not he is treating her death as more tragic simply because she was sweet and hard-working. I enjoyed writing those moments of introspection. I suffer from them a lot myself.
7. In the novel DS McAvoy has an almost supernatural sense that he can feel the presence of the dead girls, which gives this novel a gothic vibe. Is McAvoy actually experiencing something paranormal or is it just the weight of his job? Or can’t you tell me?
It’s not a paranormal thing. Not overtly, anyway. It’s a combination of experience and heightened empathy. I don’t believe in psychics or in ghosts but I do think the human brain can pick up flickers of deep emotion, like grief or injustice or joy, and perhaps that is a frequency that Aector is tuned into more than most.
8. Are you a gardener? I sense a strong feeling towards ladybirds…*
Ha! If you looked out of the window of my office you would realise how little of a gardener I am! But I do adore the outdoors and have learned quite a lot about plants and trees and their practical applications. That falls well short of actually getting the lawnmower out.
9. If Dead Pretty was turned into a film or miniseries, who would you like to play the characters?
I’d like Rory McGann from Game of Thrones to play Aector, and Polly Walker from Rome to play Trish, but if the money were right I would agree to anything, as my integrity truly does have a price.
10. Finally, if you weren’t writing crime thrillers, which other genre would you like to write?
My first historical thriller is out next year. The Zealot’s Bones is set in Hull in 1850, during a cholera outbreak that wiped out a quarter of the city and which was the first year of the local police force. It’s a serial killer tale set amid a spectacularly squalid backdrop. Outside of that, I’d like to turn my hand to anything. I was a hack for so long that I can be a bit chameleonic. That comes from writing for the Daily Telegraph in the morning and the Sunday Sport in the afternoon. That said, I don’t think I could write chick-lit. My female characters are too three-dimensional.
A big thank you to David for answering my questions – I will take him up on that éclair 😉.
Dead Pretty is available in paperback from Mulholland Books priced £7.99 today.
Let me know your thoughts about Dead Pretty in the comments- if you are looking for a good thriller to read I can highly recommend it!
*There’s a ladybird plague at the beginning of the book.