Death Do Us Part | Steven Dunne | 2016 | Headline | 496p | Review copy | Buy the book
DI Damen Brook is on leave, not a natural state for him, but his daughter Terri is visiting and he needs to be there for her, ideally emotionally as well as physically. Terri is in trouble. She’s drinking far too much and with something on her mind that she’s unable to speak about. Brook is determined to be there for her when she’s ready. Unfortunately, the murderers of Derby have other plans for Brook.
An elderly couple is found murdered, each shot through the heart as they held hands, wearing their best clothes, having drunk a glass of vintage champagne. On the wife’s lap is a photo of their grandchildren. It has the look of a mercy killing, if not a suicide pact, but it is all too reminiscent of another recent double death. A gay middle-aged married couple was also found dead, shot, hands tied but fingers still managing to touch, champagne glasses in the kitchen. The Senior Investigating Officer at the time had ridiculously written this off as a sexually-motivated, gay attack but, with that officer fortunately about to trundle off into a not well-earned retirement, Brook is called in. He’s still on leave, he’s assured, but if he could solve the murders at the same time the people of Derby would be grateful.
As if this isn’t enough on Brook’s plate, he also receives a letter from a convicted serial killer suggesting that the prisoner in the next cell might not have committed all of the Black Oak Farm murders he had been infamously convicted for a year before. That had been Brook’s case and, although he’s determined to ignore the letter, he can’t help feeling curious, particularly when his daughter begins to take an interest in it herself.
Death Do Us Part is the sixth novel in Steven Dunne’s DI Brook series. I’m still catching up, I’ve just read the previous novel, A Killing Moon, but both this and Death Do Us Part stand alone very well indeed. There’s the ongoing theme of Brook’s recovery from his earlier and most famous case, the Reaper, as well as the developing relationship between Brook and his daughter, and between Brook and his team, but there’s nothing here that doesn’t make me feel like I can continue to enjoy the new books as they come out, while going back to the earlier ones when I get the chance.
Death Do Us Part presents its cases in meticulous detail, the procedural element feels very well-researched, and this forms a fine base for the clever, twisty cases that work their powers on Brook, ultimately obsessing him. Brook is a detective who likes to lead from the front, working all hours to pursue any lead or hunch. In this novel, Brook has to find time to focus on Terri and that mean he has to rely more than ever on DS Noble. Brook needs Noble. Brook is realising that he cannot fight evil all on his own. There’s a sense at times that Brook is only just holding on, especially as Terri becomes more and more involved and the danger draws ever closer. Any mistakes that Brook makes might have serious consequences.
There are some fascinating characters in this novel. Intricate relationships are revealed. This is a long novel, so, not surprisingly, there is a lot going on, more than one case on the go, and Brook and Noble must have their wits about them, as must we as we’re pulled into a twisty labyrinth of emotion, damage, danger. I really enjoy Brook as a character. He’s irritating at times, always wanting to be in control, sometimes not seeing the wood for the trees, but there’s something so honourable about what drives him on, a real desire to put the world to rights and protect it. His relationship with Terri adds an interesting dimension to the novel but it doesn’t overpower it – it’s done very well. Above all else, Death Do Us Part is a very well-written, clever crime novel that treats some major themes with great sensitivity and insight.
A Killing Moon