Grimly determined, showing great attention to detail, and an imagination which allows him to work out motive and opportunity, Jack Dylan is that rare thing, the “copper’s copper”. His dedication to the job is much admired by his colleagues, even those who have no ambition to emulate it. Sadly, despite his guilt at perhaps not paying enough attention to his family, he is to experience more challenges in a short time than anyone could reasonably expect. This stunning prequel to the brilliant DI Dylan series combines personal problems with procedural detail to great effect to create a memorable novel. I was very pleased to receive a copy of this book to read and review from Dome Press.
The novel opens with a report of a terrible accident from the nervous Frank Bland, who has witnessed a car career from the road and down into a ravine. Realising that the chances of anyone in the car surviving were reducing by the minutes, he hastens to use a telephone box. As help arrives, the emergency services are uncertain where to begin, but soon discover the body of a woman. It emerges that the car belongs to Jack Dylan, and Detective Sergeant Larry Banks assumes that his immediate senior officer is the driver. To prolong the suspense, the narrative reverts to ten days previously. Jack is seen to be in London, just having finished an intensive course for police negotiators, and having forgotten to charge his mobile phone. This small detail, as in real life, leads him to use a public phone, and witness an arrest. It is this sort of incident which brings the novel alive, which keeps it based in an understandable reality. As he is not met from the train when he arrives back home in Yorkshire, his journey on foot is interrupted by a sudden surprising attack. While painful and significant, it serves to indicate that Jack is at once vulnerable but resilient, determined to carry on with his work. His wife, Kay, is struggling with guilt at her affair with Kenny, and guilt mixed with resentment at his job’s demands make her harsh when she picks him up from the hospital. She is coming to realise that Kenny will not be easily rejected, and may prove difficult to deal with over the next few days. Jack witnesses the close affection of another married couple, and sadly reflects on his own unsatisfactory relationships. To make matters worse, his step daughter, Isla, has been caught with drugs and is behaving in unpredictable way, which has meant that she has been brought home from University. Kay fights her feelings for Kenny, her guilt and her fear concerning Jack, and her unexpressed resentment of Isla, Jack is placed under pressure from home and work. He becomes emotionally involved when teenagers in care are desperately abused, and his anger as his own world begins to collapse is expressed in no uncertain terms. Meanwhile, an administrative worker, Jen Jones, is facing her own challenges, as her mentally unstable partner is proving more trying, and it seems that her superior is very against her. What will happen as the powder keg explodes?
I found this novel moving and powerful as it became imperative to discover what would happen next. The authors have a real gift for recalling the type of incidents which lend reality to the story, while dealing with enormous challenges. As with other books in this series, this is novel is a contemporary tale of lives integral to society but which most prefer not to involve themselves with; it is a mature witness to the procedure and skills of vulnerable and imperfect people trying to do an incredibly difficult job as well as live their own lives. I recommend this as a both a perfect place to start reading about Jack Dylan, and an essential addition to the series for those familiar with the other books who want to know how it all began.
This is a genuinely excellent series of books based on real life experience, which really shows in the writing. Beware, it is easy to get hooked!