Book review: Deity by Steven Dunne

DID Steven Dunne do something bad in another life? It’s just a passing thought as his latest bone-chilling murder mystery takes evil to a new level!

Deity is the third in his darker than dark series featuring the brooding, solitary detective Damen Brook, a middle-aged man driven by an unmoveable sense of justice and haunted by failures of the past.

The Reaper and The Disciple won rave reviews for Dunne, a former journalist now working part-time as a teacher, but Brook’s latest case involving a warped psychopath who sees himself as a ‘god’ of life and death, surely places Dunne in the highest echelons of thriller writing.

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DI Brook has evolved into one of the best and most memorable fictional detectives in what is undoubtedly a crowded market. He has the intellectual prowess of Morse, the fearless combative manner of Rebus, the humanity of Wallander and the moral probity of Phillip Marlowe.

But Dunne’s clever and compelling crime fiction reaches far beyond a quirky, quizzical detective. Twisting, turning, unfathomable plots, contemporary storylines steeped in social and political issues, vibrant, credible characters and palpably real police and forensic detail make Dunne more than a match for big names like Mark Billingham, Peter James and Peter Robinson.

Abrasive, straight-talking and recklessly rude with his superiors, former Met star Brook has few friends in the force at Derby where he is resented for his lack of empathy with fellow officers and his extraordinary and enviable skills as a detective.

It’s 20 years since the notorious Reaper case in London which, according to gossip, was responsible for Brook suffering a nervous breakdown and a move north eight years ago.

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The DI’s only ally is his likeable and light-hearted sidekick Sgt John Noble who has grown to respect and secretly admire the chief he knows to be privately unassuming, unwaveringly moral when it comes to police work and the owner of a dry and cutting sense of humour.

The two are called in when a tramp’s body is pulled from the local river and a post mortem reveals that he was murdered and his internal organs removed, apart from his lungs. Before long, the corpse of another vagrant is dredged up in a gravel pit – again, his body has no organs except for his heart.

Meanwhile, four Derby College students are reported missing but few in Derby CID, least of all Brook, pay much attention.

But then an internet film, on a website calling itself, is discovered, claiming to show the 18-year-olds committing mass suicide.

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If it’s real, why did they kill themselves when they had such bright futures ahead of them and if the suicides are faked, who has set up this disturbing hoax and where are the missing teenagers?

Brook must find out if the youngsters ritually killed themselves or whether they were murdered, and if there are any links to the deaths of the two tramps.

As Brook pieces together a terrifying sequence of events, his 20-year-old daughter Terri’s life is threatened and he must move fast to uncover the truth before time runs out...

Deity is a truly pulsating story which will leave readers breathless not just from the fast-paced action but at the sheer audacity and scope of a plot that packs in everything from teenage angst and parental responsibility to questions about the cult of celebrity and wealth, and the ethics of a must-have society.

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Throw into this mix a cross-section of cultural references as diverse as Morrissey, Edgar Allan Poe and the vampire-laden True Blood TV series, and it soon becomes clear that missing out on Deity really would be a crime.

(Headline, paperback, £13.99)

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