Peter McGarvey. Dark Sunset. New York: Cliff House Publishing, 2013.
Cliff House appears to be one of those small publishers that acts as a website to feature the works of one or a few authors, available from online sources. After about the first hundred pages the missing words―a lot of prepositions, for some reason―were more noticeable, indicating less than careful proofreading. And yet Dark Sunset is a well-crafted debut for a series about Molly Parsons, a bounty hunter turned police detective. Working in her home town of Sunset in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, Molly is not quite recovered from a previous unspecified trauma but the murder of a visitor makes her focus on the crime.
The dead man was interested in Sunset's favourite son, a poet of international fame, also deceased. Eventually we learn Molly's sad back story as her conniving boss and a sneaky colleague are trying to force her out. Things look even less optimistic for her when she disagrees with their arrest of a killer. Then a second, shocking killing occurs. Plenty of local characters with potential motives are introduced; it's a dandy story. Toronto author McGarvey has fashioned an entire milieu in the town of Sunset and its inhabitants (he also has a website about it: http://www.sunsetmichigan.com/). He's one to look for.
One-Liner: Small towns have narrow minds and long memories. (86)
Molly woke up screaming. She was on the floor. She didn't remember falling but could feel an ache in her left hip where it had slammed into the hardwood. She crawled into the corner. She raised the Beretta and aimed it at the bedroom doorway. Somewhere deepin the darkness of the house was a soft whirring.The compressor on the refrigerator?No. Something was out of place. It tore her from sleep. Fear was strangling her. She couldn't breathe. A weight was crushing down on her chest.Am I having a coronary? (75)
Deputy Paul Booster:
Damnation! Molly Parsons had not even taken a law enforcement course before joining the sheriff's department. I spent three years in college getting my criminal justice diploma!Booster acknowledged Molly had a keen sense of curiosity which made her natural investigator. She had to know all the answers, learn all the facts, and put it together seamlessly to make a case. However, he could see she was struggling now. She was off her game, not showing her usual arrogant confidence.He figured her husband's death had taken a lot more out of her than she was willing to admit.She's an emotional wreck, just going through the motions.(115)
She overcame this:
Small towns were cruel places. As the gray little daughter of the crackpot minister living on the edge of town Molly was an outside. Perceptions were formed early and followed a person like an unwanted shadow. They lingered far into the future.Her fellow students had broken into cliques corresponding with their parents' social status and income levels. Most of the kids had an occasional kind word or smile for her. It was just a small group who'd treated her badly. Although she tried to fade into the background their snickers and snarky comments followed her through the corridors. She was never certain which was worse, the nasty remarks or the pity. Both made her withdraw deeper into herself. (138)
Malcolm Mackay. The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter. London: Mantle/Macmillan Publishers, 2013.
One of the tartan noir novelists, Mackay gives us an inside look at organized crime in Glasgow. The clinical, dispassionate writing style took some adjustment on my part. But it's absolutely suited to the subject matter. Calum is a hired gun for which there's a certain demand; it's a skill and this book is the anatomy of a hit. He reviews his new assignment before, during, and after the fact. Despite the author's sparse language, we are privy to Calum's thoughts and thus can determine his feelings. The same goes for the victim's girlfriend and several other characters. Really, the achievement of a gifted writer.
The men who hire Calum are protecting their turf, never sure of who might be scheming for a takeover. Drug dealing, car theft, money laundering, factions competing for power ― all part and parcel of the subculture ― make the rivals permanently paranoid and dangerous. Wives and girlfriends are under scrutiny. Meanwhile there's a similar jockeying for position among police individuals, some of whom are honest but habitual bullies. This is a fine study of operational contrast between criminal gangs and law enforcement. Mackay plans two more novels in his Glasgow trilogy. Dark, but I'm in.
The life of Lewis:
Poor judgement. He knows it. He's always known it. Zara isn't the right person, not for that sort of life. He'll never be able to play happy families with her. They could fake it for a while, but she would get itchy feet. It wouldn't last. There's the fear, though. He thinks about it as he sits opposite her.both eating some chicken-and-pasta dish that he's thrown together. It's flavourless, but she's already talking about where they should go, playfully complaining that his choices are always dull. The fear. If he dumps Zara, and looks for something more meaningful elsewhere, he might not find it and be left with nothing. What they have may not be much, bit it's better than nothing. He agrees to her suggestion of a nightclub ― one that she always enjoys, he always hates. (36-37)
Life of a gunman:
Two weeks. That's when there's nothing but uncertainty, and worry. You're thinking about what everyone else is doing. You're wondering how close to you the police are. You're worrying that this might be the crime that tips you over the top. You go from being off the police radar to being in their sights. You become the target. It's almost bound to happen at some point. Calum tries to be as careful as he can, but one really smart cop might come along and catch him out one day. Technology may move forward and catch him out, not just on one job, but on every job he's ever done. (164)
Life of a street cop:
Plod through the day. Hot and dull. Nothing happening. No big incidents, nothing of much note. Hot Saturday, though, so there'll be a lot of unpleasant work for the night-shift. People drinking all day in the heat. People falling over, falling off things. People knocking each other down. Men trying to impress women by knocking lumps out of each other. Men trying to have their own way and knocking lumps out of women. Lot of ugly domestics on a night like this. Greig hates domestics. Tricky business. Better avoided. He's glad when the shift's ending and they can wander back towards the station. Out of the uniform, into a T-shirt. (205)