Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review: Scafell by Mathew Pink

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read something a well known mystery writer had written before they became successful. What did that first book, perhaps rejected by the publisher and unpolished by a very good editor, read like? Was it still compelling enough to keep the reader interest and involved? I think I may have just had that experience and I was surprised by the experience.

Matthew Pink was the guest author on my blog this last week and his bio contained a link to his recently published book, Scafell. It is Pink's first novel. I didn't expect much because I am not having good luck with the new fiction coming out right now. But in this particular case I was very wrong.
English: One of the Three Tarns With Sca Fell ...
English: One of the Three Tarns With Sca Fell and Scafell Pike as a backdrop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stephen "Sparky" Markham was a detective in London where he worked close to the line between legal and illegal. He drank a great deal and was at the wheel drunk when he wrecked his car killing his sister and nephew. The police investigation into the accident covered up his guilt. They also pushed for his resignation and made him enlistment in the army where he was sent to Afghanistan. I suppose it was thought he would pay for his guilt while in service of his country. After his release from the military he moved to the Lake District in the UK to live in his grandfathers home. The story started out to be about his time there and how he dealt with his grief and guilt. Then there was an old man, two wandering dogs and a shapeless bag at the edge of a lake. The tale took on a whole new meaning.

The opening page had me hooked. I loved the way he used words:
I read once that, in the movies, they have a name for the first shot which appears on the screen unbuttressed by opening titles or narration or such like.  This shot appears just - bam - as if someone clapped or blinked or clicked some magic fingers.  And there it is.
They call it the "Cold Open."
My favourite version of a cold open throws wide a rainy location framing a landscape foreign to me in a world I do not yet know.
Every time I open the heavy back door of my cottage in the mornings I am reminded of this kind of shot.  
The strength of this book lies not only in the twists and turns of the tale but also in the authors ability to set the stage for what is to come. I thought the "cold open" was a perfect introduction to a part of the UK noted for its fall rain and more rain.  It also seemed to fore-shadow the story based on the cold realities of evil.

Murder and intrigue are nothing new to the mystery genre but how the author puts it all together can keep the reader involved until the last word on the page. The story line in Scafell is reminiscent of Stieg Larson's books about the postitute trade in Europe and a little bit Micky Spillane was thrown in just for fun.  I thought the book had some quirky flaws but in the end I found it very charming. I even wondered whether the quirkiness was by design.

So, in the end I did think the story this new author told was wonderful.  I would recommend it!

In his bio, Pink says this is only the beginning of the "Sparky Markham" series. After reading the first book,  I certainly hope so because I want to know what happens next.

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