Welcome to my stop on the 'Burned and Broken' blog tour! It's taken me a while to get my thoughts about this one in order which is why this post is going up so late in the day, but what I can tell you is that it's a very enjoyable read, and one of the most intriguing crime debuts I've ever picked up.
'Coming back into consciousness... his senses gradually returning... but they were piecemeal, disjointed... disconnected.'It's a disorienting way to start the novel, but that's what makes it so damn effective.
The body of DI Sean Carragher is found in a burnt-out car on the seafront. Recently suspended, he was the subject of an internal investigation after an assault allegation was filed by a suspect he'd interviewed. Carragher was part of the team investigating the death of Alicia Goode, a sixteen-year-old who plunged to her death from an overpass, seemingly a drunk accident. But nothing is normally that clear cut, and the team know not to believe in coincidences. Could their deaths be connected?
It's down to DS Frank Pearson and DC Cat Russell of the Essex Major Police Investigation Team to solve the cases before anyone else can get hurt. But Pearson has health problems and family issues to worry about, and Cat has the Professional Standards Department grilling her to find out more information about Sean even before he dies.
With so much going on, will they be able to find their killer?
It took me a while to get into 'Burned and Broken'. Mark Hardie has a unique writing style, but it's hard to adjust to.
The first 150 pages were a struggle. There aren't many indentations which means that the paragraphs are long and hard to concentrate on, but the sentences are short, often just one or two words strung together. The juxtaposition confused me. My uncertainty deepened when I realised that some of the chapters were literally two or three pages long, the chapter breaks inserted in places that weren't sensible and interrupted the flow of the story.
However, after I'd gotten to grips with the style I really enjoyed this novel. Don't discount it too quickly, give it a chance! Mark is such a genius storyteller, his plot so tightly woven that there's no chance of peeking through and seeing what's coming before it happens.
Part one is set in the four days preceding Carragher's death, part two dealing with the aftermath and the investigation. We follow all of the characters closely, getting into all of their heads to discover their back stories and the insecurities that plague them. Knowing that this is the first installment in a series (a preview of the sequel, 'Truly Evil', is featured at the end of the book) it makes sense that the focus is heavily skewed towards the people rather than the crime-fighting. The characters interact beautifully, particularly Cat and Frank: they have an almost paternal relationship, and I'm interested to see how their partnership develops in the future.
Personally, I find it difficult to care about the characters in crime novels; I'm always much more focused on speeding to the end and resolving the case. The opposite happened during this story. I found myself losing interest in who had killed Sean Carragher, because I was so absorbed by what was going on with Frank and his ex-wife Ruth, and how Cat was dealing with being one of the only female officers on the team. They're so realistic, and I'm craving more adventures with this team.
I don't want to give too much away about who the culprit was, but I do want to applaud Mark for writing about teenagers in the care system. In the past there have been reports regarding abuse in the care system, but this is a topic that's frequently brushed under the carpet: to have it so directly tackled is refreshing. Pearson and Russell are both compassionate, subverting every 'good cop, bad cop' expectation, and both characters care about getting justice but also doing the right thing. It's a match made in heaven, and there is so much storytelling potential within them.
It's been a while since I last read a British crime novel, but Mark Hardie has revived my love for a genre that I'd lost touch with and I'm extremely grateful for that.
There is some resolution at the end of the story, but a lot of loose ends are left untied. I can't wait to see what happens with the subplots that are laced throughout this novel, and I'll definitely be picking up books by Mark in the future.