A Tapping at My Door (DS Nathan Cody Series), by David Hunt
Part of the reason I started reviewing books was my terrible memory for titles and authors. Friends would ask whether I’d read any interesting books and I would remember several and struggle to remember the name of the books. I’m not sure how or when, but I know I’ve read this book before because certain scenes were in my memory somewhere. Clearly it was before I started this activity but the book was interesting enough to go through it again.
This is a series opener featuring Detective Sergeant (DS) Nathan Cody. It was published in 2016 and a second book was released in April of this year.
The book opens with the murder of a woman in her home. She’s settling in to watch television when she hears rustling and tapping outside her window. When her body is found the next day there’s a dead raven on the body and note attached with a line from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. It’s discovered that the woman is a police officer, and is just the first of a series of patrol constables targeted by a killer using birds and lines of poetry to mark his work.
DS Cody is assigned to the murders. It’s subtle at the start of the book but it becomes increasingly clear that Cody has had some traumatic experiences in his own life. There’s something from the recent past that others, even his supervisor, are sensitive to and are trying to help him get through. It’s not helping that a former love interest has also been assigned to his group, that an aggressive reporter and cameraman are hounding him for information, or that he’s not welcome in his own parents’ home because of his choice of joining the force.
Through the book we mostly follow DS Cody, though there are glimpses of the life and thinking of the killer as he plots his next move. Cody ends up chasing several false leads at first. When he does finally catch up with the killer it’s a life-or-death situation for both Cody and the woman he once loved. The final motivation for the killings seems a bit bizarre but, hey, the killer is obviously crazy so a logical killing spree is probably more than we could have hoped for.
Where Jackson shines is in action sequences and in creating a portrait of a man trying to deal with the aftermath of a major trauma while still trying to protect law and order. Were I to lodge a major objection it would be to the cover which quotes The Guardian: “Recalls Harlan Coben, though for my money Jackson is the better writer.” Listen, Guardian, we are fully aware of the general disdain your paper holds for all things American, but hands off Harlan Coben. You can keep your Brexit devalued pounds. Coben does a better job of stirring the memory pot of American culture than anyone short of Stephen King, he writes exceptional action, and manages to incorporate humor at the same time. To paraphrase Edmund Kean, “Killing off characters is easy. Humor is hard.”
That said, the book is a strong police procedural with a good lead character. Jackson is no Adrian McKinty but several scenes were strong enough to stick with me between a first and second reading.