Friday, June 10, 2016

Review of My Kind of Justice by Col Bury (Caffeine Nights, 2015)

Though he grew up in a rough part of Manchester and has a shady past as a gang member, Jack Striker has managed to work his way up the police ranks to Detective Inspector.  Recently appointed to Greater Manchester’s Major Incident Team his first case seems like a gangland slaying.  Despite his doubts, DCI Maria Cunningham wants to forge ahead on a particular line of inquiry.  A few hours later another youth is killed.  While Cunningham tries to keep the cases separate, and enlists the help of another DI and her boss to try and marginalise Striker, he can see clear links and starts to investigate the cases as if they are related.  Soon it is apparent that Striker is right and there is a vigilante killer at work, murdering gang members who preyed on the local community.  One of the victims is Striker’s nephew and when Cunningham succeeds in pushing him from the investigation, Striker runs his own unofficial op along with a couple of trustworthy colleagues.  However, the ‘Hoodie Hunter’, as the press have dubbed him, is a dangerous foe and it seems that Striker has met his match.

My Kind of Justice is a gritty police procedural set in South Manchester.  The strengths of the story are the sense of place, characterisation and plot.  Col Bury clearly knows the area well and he paints a vivid social picture of a place blighted by poverty, drugs, and criminal gangs.  His central character, DI Jack Striker has managed to climb his way out these ills through a career in the police, though the cost has been his marriage and his relationship to his two kids.  He still has family and old friends living locally, however, and they hold secrets he’d like kept hidden as he plays out his version of a redemption man.  While he has close colleagues at work, he also has enemies, and Bury does a nice job of portraying work-based rivalries and office banter.  The plot centres on the investigation into a spate of murders of local gang members by a vigilante who is steadily picking them off.  The vigilante serial killer angle gives the story tension and an inherent pace.  It is fair to say, however, that once the tale moves out of the purely procedural format as Striker is removed from the official investigation it drifts towards a thriller and starts to become a little bit telegraphed and reliant on plot devices.  Moreover, the telling was a little stilted and overly descriptive at times, though this only marginally detracted from the enjoyment of the story. Overall, a decent start to what I suspect is the first in a series.

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