It’s to my eternal shame that I haven’t read any of Matt Hilton’s books yet! I am so glad that I finally took the plunge with Darke, the first in the DI Kerry Darke series.
Before I share my thoughts, here’s what the official blurb says:
Crime and supernatural fiction collide in the first in a new series of thrillers from the best-selling author of “Dead Men’s Dust.”
The ghosts of her past and present haunt Detective Inspector Kerry Darke.
As a child she witnessed the abduction of her ten-year-old sister Sally, the final victim of the murderous Fell Man, a terrifying serial killer whose hunting grounds were the bleak and windswept fells of northern England. Sally has never been found, and the Fell Man never identified.
Decades later, Kerry is a detective inspector tasked with combatting the rise in violence throughout London. When another ten-year-old girl is murdered in a gang related drive-by shooting a ghost of Kerry’s past returns to trouble her, but the mysterious wraith known only as Girl is not the most frightening thing to be resurrected…
Tortured by the vengeful spirit of Swain, a notorious gang leader, Kerry struggles to maintain a grasp on the case and her sanity, but she is more determined than ever to lay all her ghosts to rest. To do so she must agree to a pact with her personal devil. In return Swain promises to lead her to the Fell Man…but what he demands is unthinkable.
That is until the Fell Man returns and more girls are snatched…
A disturbing opening sets the scene for this police procedural meets supernatural. I have to be honest from the beginning and say that this mix is not always my favourite but there was something about the blurb that drew me to this book and I can most definitely say that Matt Hilton changed my views with this one! I’m glad that I took the chance on it.
DI Kerry Darke joined the police with one aim and that was to hunt down the man who abducted and murdered her sister when they were children. But she is not alone in her hunt, she has been joined by “Girl” from the beginning. Her ghostly companion is then joined by the spirit of gang leader Swain who is determined to have Kerry seek revenge on his behalf.
Past and present collide giving DI Darke’s story an intensity and the supernatural edge provides something just a little bit different for the readers. At times I worried about Darke’s ability to carry out her role. Unlike some other characters I believed in her ghostly companions but I did worry that they were going to drag her under.
Girl’s appearance was disturbing to say the least but Darke totally compelled me to read on. She fascinated me, her motivation and her fears made for a well rounded and believable character. As she faced investigation into her actions I felt her frustration and wanted to step into the pages to get right behind her. Swaine’s character brought an element of humour to the story and I found myself smirking a few times throughout.
A cast of well drawn characters join Kerry in this novel; some of whom I liked better than others! Her fiance – Adam – well the nicest thing I can find to say about him is that he wasn’t the most understanding of characters. In direct contrast to him was DS Danny Korba. I got a real sense of an underlying attraction between him and Kerry and I’m not going to lie I kind of liked Danny a lot. I’m hoping that this relationship is pursued further in the series.
DCI Charles Porter is totally focused on his career and his feelings for Darke do not appear to be of the warm and fuzzy kind. I relished the times where she nailed him and made him squirm but there is another side to Porter and the whole question of just how far he will go to support her is explored, especially when her fiancé, Adam, sticks his oar in at work.
Set between London and Cumbria, the sense of place was authentic. The Inner city gang culture mixed with the rural North of England serial killer provides a genuinely in your face creepy read that will have you peeking from behind your covers to make sure you’re alone as you read!
As I said at the beginning the mix of crime with supernatural doesn’t always do it for me but this one did. I was invested in that story: I wanted to know what the resolution was going to be; I had to know what was going to happen to Kerry. She made a real impact on me and I actually grew quite used to her conversations with ghosts! This was a high tension read; my wee heart was going like the clappers towards the end! Would I recommend it? That would be a damn right I do!
Darke is available to purchase from:
Waterstones and all other good bookshops
About the author:
Matt Hilton quit his career as a police officer with Cumbria Constabulary to pursue his love of writing tight, cinematic American-style thrillers. He is the author of the Joe Hunter thriller series, including ‘Dead Men’s Dust’, ‘Judgement and Wrath’, ‘Slash and Burn’,’Cut and Run’, ‘Blood and Ashes’, ‘Dead Men’s Harvest’, ‘No Going Back’, ‘Rules of Honour’, ‘The Lawless Kind’ and ‘The Devil’s Anvil’ (June 2015) with further books due in the series. He also has short stories in a number of collections including ‘Even More Tonto Short Stories’, ‘Holiday of the Dead’ (under a pen name), the Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 9, Drunk on the Moon 2, Uncommon Assassins, Brit Grit Too, Off The Record 2, Grand Central Noir, Death Toll 2, Blood Bath and a Joe Hunter short story has been featured in The Strand Magazine. Joe Hunter also features in eBook originals called ‘Six of the Best’, ‘Joe Hunter: Instant Justice’, ‘Dead Fall’ and ‘Red Stripes’.
In addition Matt has self published horror/action novels ‘Darkest Hour’, ‘Dominion’, ‘Preternatural’, ‘The Shadows Call’ and a collection of his short stories ‘One Twisted Voice – traversing genres’, and collected, edited and contributed to ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Volumes 1 and 2. he is also the author of pulp action hero ‘Dirk Ramm’.
Matt is a high ranking martial artist, and in his day fought in the fledgling MMA scene in the UK, and was Northern Ju-Jitsu Champion 2000. He has been a cop, a detective and a private security specialist, all of which lend an authenticity to the action scenes in his books.
He has been writing since he was a small child, and is also an avid reader of crime, horror and thriller books, all of which inspire his writing style. Although seen as crime thrillers, Matt’s Joe Hunter series combine elements from all of those genres, so is slightly different in flavour than many others in the same category. He is a huge fan of the pulp masters, and hopes to emulate their fast pace and derring do. Matt is the first to say that his books will never win a literary prize, but they’re not intended to: they’re there for pure entertainment.
Saying that Matt’s first novel, Dead Men’s Dust, was shortlisted for Debut Thriller of the Year 2009 by the International Thriller Writers’ Organisation (ITW) and was named as a Daily Telegraph Thriller of the Year 2009, and in 2013 was a Kindle UK top ten best seller.
His books have been translated into German, Italian, Romanian and Bulgarian, and are published throughout the UK (and territories) by Hodder and Stoughton, and in the USA (and territories) by William Morrow and Co (books 1 – 6), and by Down and Out Books (books 7 – 9).
Matt’s Joe Hunter character is an amalgam of many of his influences that include Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan, George G Gillman’s Joshua ‘Edge’ Hedges, and David Morrell’s Saul Grisman to name a few. But he’s also his own man.