Hall of Fame Review: A Tapping at My Door by David Jackson

Monday 11 April 2016
Title: A Tapping at My Door
Author: David Jackson
Publisher: Zaffre
Publication Date: 7th April 2016
Pages: 384
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
A woman at home in Liverpool is disturbed by a persistent tapping at her back door. She's disturbed to discover the culprit is a raven, and tries to shoo it away. Which is when the killer strikes.

DS Nathan Cody, still bearing the scars of an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case. But the police have no leads, except the body of the bird - and the victim's missing eyes.

As flashbacks from his past begin to intrude, Cody realises he is battling not just a murderer, but his own inner demons too.

And then the killer strikes again, and Cody realises the threat isn't to the people of Liverpool after all - it's to the police.

I am at a complete loss with how to start writing my review for A Tapping at My Door. There is so much that I want to say about this story, but a lot of it is about the characters and the plot developments and it would almost certainly ruin the story for potential readers. This is the kind of book that makes me wish I was part of a book club. To put how much I enjoyed this book into perspective, those who read my blog will know that my favourite crime author is Chris Carter. A Tapping at My Door is the best crime fiction novel I've read since Chris's most recent book, I Am Death. All I can say is that if David Jackson continues this series at the standard he's began it with, then he's going to become a favourite author of mine, I'm certain of that. Very few crime novels have provoked the emotional reaction from me that A Tapping at My Door has and I'm already confident that this is going to be one of my top reads of 2016. In fact there's only one upcoming 2016 book that I can even see being any competition for my crime fiction top spot. Should I just stop reading now?

I've spent just a few hours in the company of Nathan Cody and he's without doubt my most favourite detective since Angela Marsons' Kim Stone. He's such an intriguing and multi-layered character, and one who even after learning so much about in this first novel, is one that David Jackson will hopefully continue to explore alongside the main plot of each subsequent novel. Despite the obvious trauma that he has gone through, trauma that is at first held back from the reader but slowly revealed as the story progresses, he is actually quite a humorous character in places with a similar sense of humour and outlook on life as myself. I actually cared about his progression throughout the story, he very quickly became somebody that I could see as a real person. His actions, behaviours and beliefs are believable. He isn't a perfect character, he's flawed, he can make mistakes, and that's what made him feel so real. David has clearly put real thought and effort into creating and establishing this character and I just can't wait to read about him again. This series has to be long running and the second one has to be coming along very soon, right?

It's not just because I am from Liverpool that I was such a fan of the scene setting in A Tapping at My Door, but it's because of how brilliantly it was all done. Liverpool became a character itself in this story. Every single scene of this book, and where it was set was symbolic and had real meaning and each place was used to vividly convey everything that the killer of this novel wanted to put across. It was haunting, it was eerie and because I know the places so well, it was more than a little unnerving at times. The history of the city is interwoven with what is happening in the present day. I was transported into my own city, to places I know and see every day of my life. And it's not just those dark scenes that the city lends itself to so well, but also the scenes of 'normality'. For example Nathan Cody is lucky enough to have a flat on the prestigious and beautiful Rodney Street (not that he always sees it like that) and the book has a brilliant opening with an undercover Nathan busking on Bold Street and lamenting the closure of our beloved Waterstone's (despite the fact there's one just around the corner, that's beside the point as it is the store that holds the most bookish memories for me). My blogging friend Raven over at Raven Crime Reads shared a brilliant guest post from David about the Liverpool setting and I highly recommend you give it a read.

I particularly enjoyed the flow of this novel and I think it was because the focus was always on plot and the characters. We are never bogged down with too much of the procedure and instead just remain at the heart of the action with various asides where the story is allowed to slow down to allow our main characters time to digest exactly what is happening, whilst at the same time try and deal with what's going on in their own lives. Nathan especially as he is soon working alongside a former lover, a former lover who just so happens to be engaged. We also have chapters featuring the killer which were quite frankly disturbing. The images in my mind made me shiver and at times it was like something out of a horror novel. But, later in the story when it becomes clear just what it all meant it became even more disturbing and looking back it's quite impressive how this story was told, and I can't imagine there will be a single reader that will fully work out where this story is heading. The character development in this story is just astounding and our killer is the character that is going to leave a lasting impression in my mind and even now, after finishing the novel I've got so many thoughts running around my mind about this character.

This paragraph contains mild spoilers. I so wish it was possible to discuss what happened in this story because that last third especially just needs talking about. It's knocked me for six if I'm honest because it's just something that I did not see coming and it's the reason I immediately went onto Twitter to shout about how I had been left speechless by the ending. I studied Psychology successfully at A level and less successfully at degree level but it gave me a fascination into how human's react to different things, things such as personal tragedies in their own lives and what leads them to commit certain acts. A Tapping at My Door focuses on something I don't have a personal experience with but it's something I've learnt a lot about, I've met people affected by it through an organisation my grandad has been involved with from the start and so I immediately got goosebumps for the final section of this book. I had genuine tears in my eyes. I felt for these characters (apart from one who I had not one iota of sympathy for). I had no idea how things were going to end. My heart was literally in my mouth and there could have been an explosion in the street outside and I would have been oblivious because nothing mattered more to me at that moment in time than finishing this book. I hope by now this review (or should that be essay) has put across just how much I enjoyed A Tapping at My Door, if that's the right description to use because whilst I did 'enjoy' it, it's that human element, and how thought-provoking the whole book was and how it drew such a real, emotional response from me that has made it one of the best books I have read so far this year. It's an outstanding book, and it's one that I am going to be recommending to everybody.

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