September 2014

Kevin Sampson - The House on the Hill

"DCI McCartney is one to watch out for. I feel his destiny may be great."

The unexpected arrival of a young runaway girl plunges disillusioned and gone to ground DCI McCartney back into his past, to the summer of 1990, and an undercover operation in Ibiza.

In 1990, a joint venture with Spanish authorities, following up on a series of Ecstasy fuelled deaths in both countries, McCartney and his partner DS Millie Baker are sent to infiltrate the gang suspected as being responsible. What they discover is far worse than they ever suspected. A dark empire whose reach extends from Ireland to Morocco with activities from industrial drug protection to terrorism. As the net closes in, DS Baker is killed and McCartney returns home, struggling to deal with his loss.

Twenty-four years later the runaway on his doorstep has escaped from the same ruthless gang of international drug dealers, now hidden away in a fortress high in the Moroccan Rif. What she tells McCartney blasts his apathy away, and sends him on a mission that goes far beyond law and order. This is his chance for redemption.

'The House on the Hill' is the second outing for Kevin Sampson's DCI McCartney and whilst it couldn't be more different than the first in format, it was almost certainly quite as brilliant. This time his storytelling was of a more traditional sense, split into past and present rather than concurrently via individual voices as before. This change in style was an enjoyable one, making the book a far easier read than the first without taking anything away from the complexity of either the plot or the characters and ensuring there was still plenty of betrayal, blackmail, and corruption, for the discerning crime reader.

I also found it an interesting step for a second novel in a series to spin a tale from the past, giving the reader a greater insight into how and why McCartney is who he is, instead of going for the routine of following on with the next big case to arise in the protagonists career. In doing this not only has Sampson made the book accessible to those who haven't read the previous novels, he has ensured that my interest in McCartney is as strong now as it was when I finished 'The Killing Pool', if not even piqued it more.

The depiction of 1990s Ibiza, with its thriving rave scene and ensuing drug fuelled decadence is well written enriching McCartney's background, providing a great reminder to those of us old enough to remember the 'scene' a great buzz and making those who were never there wish they were.

Overall I found 'The House on the Hill', perfectly paced, well observed and one of my most addictive reads of late. I also spotted at least one character I felt we may well yet see more of. I've said it before and will happily say it again; DCI McCartney is one to watch out for. I feel his destiny may be great.

Reviewed by: J.P.

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