A Killing Moon | Steven Dunne | 2015 (7 May) | Headline | 471p | Review copy | Buy the book
Caitlin Kinnear is out on the town in Derby, knocking back the shots with her best friend. In the morning she is due to return home to her family in Ireland. She never arrives. It takes a while before she is reported missing, her friend in Derby and her family in Ireland both assuming she has stayed on with the other. When, finally, she is reported missing, no leads are found to indicate that she has done anything more than lose herself on purpose. But DS Noble is interested. He works with DI Damen Brook, the master solver of cold cases, and it’s rubbed off. Noble examines Derby’s other cases of lost young women and discovers there are similarities and links. Brook isn’t keen – until, that is, he discovers that taking on the case could irritate his boss. From that point on, there’s no stopping him. It’s just as well. Especially when the body of another young woman turns up.
A Killing Moon is the fifth in Steven Dunne’s DI Brook series but it’s the first I’ve read. I’m relatively late to crime fiction and so I’m particularly fond of a series I can leap into. This worked particularly well here. I understand that DI Brook has deep troubles in his past, many of which he now appears to be reconciled with, but these have left him with attitude – his sarcasm is almost professional in its quality, he has little patience for American turns of phrase used by his British colleagues and he is an expert at putting people down with a lash of his sharp tongue – so sharp that his victims don’t immediately feel the pain that’s coming. But Brook is also deeply respected and, when you get to know him a bit (as we are privileged to do so), then his qualities of loyalty, courage and decency come to the fore. We do get a little glimpse of a private life through his text messages to his daughter. Brook is an intriguing man. He irritated me a little at times but I grew to like him very much indeed. I also had a lot of time for Noble and other members of Brooks’ team.
It doesn’t matter how much you like the detective and his or her team if you don’t enjoy the story – I really liked this one. Dunne takes us into a darker side of Derby life, one that feeds off cheap migrant labour and exploits local waifs and strays. This is a dangerous underworld, full of secrets and codes, sinister allegiances and prejudices, and yet the family is paramount, almost.
But this is not a straightforward mystery of gangsters and their vulnerable human prey. Far from it. A Killing Moon is full of twists, surprises and red herrings. The novel follows the format that the reader knows more about the case than the detectives but even we don’t know it all. Our knowledge does mean, though, that we have every reason to fear for Caitlin and the other missing girls. Things get very tense indeed.
I liked A Killing Moon very much, especially enjoying the characters of Brook and Caitlin. The pace did falter for me at times during the first half of the book but this was more than compensated for by the excellent and exhilarating second half and the fantastic ending. Derby is not a city I know at all but I liked its depiction here. Brook appreciates the countryside on his doorstep and there is a strong contrast between the city and the peaks outside, reflecting Brook’s personality. It’s a clever book, thought-provoking and very well written, also frightening and sinister in places. Steven Dunne has won me over with A Killing Moon. I’ve now bought the first two in the series and I’m looking forward to reading them very soon. I want to know much, much more about DI Damen Brook.