Hall of Fame Review: The House on the Hill by Kevin Sampson (5/5)

Friday 15 August 2014
DCI Billy McCartney has gone to ground, disillusioned with his job. When a runaway turns up on his doorstep, her story plunges Mac back to the summer of 1990, and one of his most traumatic cases.

Ibiza - a joint venture with the Spanish serious crime agency. McCartney and his partner DS Millie Baker have been detailed to infiltrate the Liverpool-based drug gang responsible for a wave of ecstasy-related deaths. But their stakeout takes both Mac and Millie to the heart of a dark empire whose tentacles stretch from Ireland to Morocco, and whose activities include industrial-scale drug production - and terrorism. They're close to their big bust when Millie is abducted by the gang, and killed. McCartney never quite recovers from it.

The waif who knocks on Mac's door twenty-four years later has escaped from those same captors; a dynasty of international dope dealers based 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.

I read a book called Stars Are Stars in my mid-teens and was blown away by it. As I was born and continue to live in Liverpool I was on the hunt for fiction by local authors set in the city and found some of Kevin Sampson's books at the library. I absolutely devoured them over the course of a couple of weeks but Stars Are Stars remains my favourite. Sampson has a fantastic ability to write about real characters, often flawed, and put them into incredibly realistic situations that have you experiencing every emotion you could possibly experience whilst reading a book.

Sampson's more recent work was a long time coming but The Killing Pool did not disappoint. Now optioned for a TV series hopefully the small screen can replicate the brilliance of that novel and shine a light on a local talent I think deserves to be read in the millions. Praise aside how does book two fare? Incredibly well is the answer. In crime fiction it is often the case that you get the bog standard detective but every so often someone comes along and creates someone completely unique, fascinating and just so enjoyable to read about. That character goes by the name of Mac, or to give him his full title: DCI Billy McCartney. As this is the second in a planned series there's so much more yet to learn and discover about Mac and I cannot wait but at the same time this can be read as a standalone (but I urge you to read book one first).

I was a bit apprehensive about the book after reading the plot. I really want more crime fiction set in Liverpool yet the action here takes place in Ibiza and Morocco. That said I was hooked after just a few pages so any apprehension vanished as quick as it came. The atmosphere created by Sampson in both settings is amazing, for someone who often has trouble picturing the scene in my head I could picture it vividly reading this book to the point it was almost like a film. People often turn their noses up when you say a book can be better than a TV show or a film but that's the case here. The blurb gives quite a bit away, certainly for the first chunk of the book meaning that I was itching to get to the present day to continue the story and see where it would lead.

The scenes in this book are just how I want my crime fiction served. Brutal. Gritty. Nasty. Ultimately it all serves to improve the story making it all the more hard hitting and leaving more of an impact on the reader. There are no chapters, just parts which means for someone like me who cannot put down a book mid chapter that would ordinarily be quite annoying however such is the addictiveness of this book it took me just a few sittings to read so there was very little putting down. Action packed is one way to describe this book, it does not let up making for a very fast paced and hugely enjoyable read. This book has left me itching to continue Mac's story and full of excitement to see The Killing Pool on TV. I'm not someone who takes notice of sales figures or awards etc but crime fiction of this calibre doesn't come along all that often and when it does it deserves to be read and so I hope crime fans everywhere have this book on their reading list.

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