3 out of 4 stars
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Stark, by John Worsley Simpson, is the first book in the Harry Stark Mystery series.
Due to a tragic accident, Detective Harry Stark has had some time away from the police force to recover. Back at work, his first case appears to be a basic burglary with one unfortunate victim.
Chris Harper, a rising star in the geology field, is found dead in his home office in front of his computer. However, some facts just don’t match up and Harry starts to dig deeper. When more people turn up dead, and with his bosses demanding the case be tied up, can Harry discover the murderer before it’s too late?
Written in third person, the story follows Harry as the main character, focusing on his development. Still struggling to come to terms with the accident, Harry needs to prove he’s capable of solving a case, not only to his bosses, but more importantly, to himself. Harry’s character is realistically described as he’s not always likeable. A difficult personality at the best of times, he’s also turned to alcohol to help get him through the night. This is a believable response to grief and tragedy, albeit an unhealthy one.
The secondary characters all provide a good mix of both suspects and colleagues with varying personalities. One character which I liked was neither suspect nor colleague, but a disgruntled piano player in a bar which Harry liked to visit. Morty provides some comic relief as well as an unassuming friendship for Harry outside of the police force.
Set in Canada in 1997, it is missing some of the more advanced technology of modern times, for example, floppy discs were mentioned several times. This provided a refreshing change from some of the more recent crime fiction books which I have read, which were packed full of up to date technology.
The book, in general, was well written, although I did find a couple of editorial errors which would be easily picked up by another run through with the editor. Unfortunately, I found the flow of the story quite slow at times and not as gripping as I was anticipating it to be. There were also a couple of incidents which weren’t followed up with as much detail as I would have liked. For example, without giving away too much, when Harry was hit over the head by an unknown assailant, the gravity of the situation seemed to be passed over very quickly. Also, a large part of the story seemed to revolve around Harry drinking. While it is apparent that he’s not coping very well, I did find this aspect a little overdone.
Overall, it was an enjoyable plot and I wasn’t able to predict the ending which I appreciate in crime fiction. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars mainly due to the editorial errors and the story flow. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime and mystery fiction, especially those who like to start a new series. While some serious topics are brought up such as murder, homosexuality, and alcohol abuse, these subjects are never graphic nor do they overwhelm the story.
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