From the bestselling author of Cry Baby, the beginning of a brilliant and gripping police procedural series set in Liverpool, perfect for fans of Peter James and Mark Billingham “Recalls Harlan Coben – though for my money Jackson is the better writer.” Guardian.
A woman at home in Liverpool is disturbed by a persistent tapping at her back door. She’s disturbed to discover the culprit is a raven, and tries to shoo it away. Which is when the killer strikes. DS Nathan Cody, still bearing the scars of an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case. But the police have no leads, except the body of the bird – and the victim’s missing eyes. As flashbacks from his past begin to intrude, Cody realises he is battling not just a murderer, but his own inner demons too. And then the killer strikes again, and Cody realises the threat isn’t to the people of Liverpool after all – it’s to the police. Following the success and acclaim of the Callum Doyle novels, A Tapping at My Door is the first instalment of David Jackson‘s new Nathan Cody series.
I’ve never read David Jackson before, despite all the great things I’ve heard. I actually thought I’d surely bought Cry Baby, having seen it in the Kindle Chart forever, but no. Bit of an error, then. Because he’s bloody good. In this case, it’s great to get in at the start of a series featuring a new character, rather than clueless, halfway through one already well-established. Is it just me, or does there seem to be a bit of a fashion for shorter series of maybe around four books, rather than long Rebus/Roy Grace series? Maybe authors like to try out new protagonists so they don’t get bored with writing about the same character(s) all the time – or you can start a new series on the side, like Elly Griffiths has done, alongside Ruth Galloway.
So – Nathan Cody, ex-undercover, now in the MIT, which investigates major incidents. We know something went dreadfully wrong in his last stint undercover, and throughout the book, it’s revealed, drip by drip, very effectively (and it’s quite gruesome!) And to be quite honest, when I learnt what it was, I was surprised he was allowed straight back in at the “sharp end” of policing. I wasn’t surprised he’s a tad jumpy/an insomniac/hallucinates/attacks people – i.e. causes breaches of the peace, rather than breaks them up. Little wonder fiancée Devon has left. It’s the first day in MIT for Megan Webley, who he trained with, and went out with for 18 months. So…awkward. And she’s now engaged, to a chap called Parker. Says it all, really.
They’re investigating a case which takes a serious turn – well, it’s pretty serious anyway! – when the victim is ID’d as a copper, Terri Latham. She’s found in her garden with a raven across her face, her throat slit so she couldn’t scream, and her eyes poked out. Nasty. There’s a note tied to the raven’s leg, with part of a quote from Edgar Allan Poe printed on it. The most notorious thing, job-wise, Terri Latham is known for, is backing up her partner, Paul Garnett, who, whilst they were breaking up a fracas outside a bar, got a bit heavy-handed – something no-one is surprised at, as he’s got form for it – except this time the bloke is dead, from his head hitting the ground. If that wasn’t enough of a nightmare for Merseyside Police, it’s revealed the lad, Kevin Vernon, wasn’t even in the pub, or fight, but was just walking home, and had severe learning difficulties. The two officers stuck to the same story, despite the fact all other witnesses give another version of events – and Garnett walks away Scot-free, as usual.
Despite investigations, involving PC Garnett, and of course the Vernon family, who are very unhappy, and see the visit as an accusation, plus her current squad, and friends and family, no-one appears to be able to shine a light as to why Terri was victim of such a horrific attack.
Throughout the book there’s input from the killer, which makes clear it’s something to do with the birds, and a grudge against police in general. When his second victim – PC Paul Garnett – has his nose removed, with a line from a nursery rhyme which mentions the removal of noses – yes, that one – and the appropriate bird left at the crime scene, it points more and more to the Vernon family, or someone close to them…which calls for the utmost diplomacy.
A bum steer wastes time, then a third policeman is killed who had nothing to do with the Vernon case. DS Cody tries to lure our killer out, with disastrous results. And the whole time I’m thinking, this is just a random police killer with a bird obsession. But nothing about it is random at all.
The use of the city, and it’s landmarks, throughout the book is something I really enjoyed – it’s something Linda Fairstein does with New York, and it really makes the surroundings almost become another character. Stuart MacBride, Peter May, Ian Rankin…they all do it, rural and urban, and it really adds atmosphere, which we get in spades at the end here. It really is one of these “…I’ll talk to you in a minute, right? Just need to read this…oh shit…”-type endings, where the book would have to be physically removed from your clutch. Loved it, particularly Blunt, Cody’s boss, and there’s some good banter, as you’d expect! And everything also clicked beautifully into place, plot-wise.
Great start to a new series, which will hopefully tip David Jackson into the big league. It’d be great if they did an offer on the books in his first series, the Callum Doyle one, so I could buy the job lot, as I’m looking forward to reading more of David’s work, and I really don’t want to wait a year to do so! A series with great potential
With thanks to Zaffre Publishing, for an advanced review copy in exchange for my unbiased opinion.