Welcome to the dark side of Sheffield in the first of Ben Cheetham's Steel City Thrillers.
Four years ago Harlan Miller was a Detective Inspector with a lot of promise, but losing his son in an accident sent him into a downward spiral. As we join him at the beginning his marriage is not in a good state, he is drinking and, in a drunken fight he kills a man.
He, serves his time but the Harlan Miller who emerges from his four year incarceration is a changed man - and not in a good way. He is haunted by his crime and tries to make amends to the wife of his victim but she will not forgive him.
Within days of his release a child is abducted, and the child just happens to be the son of the man Miller killed. The police are not getting anywhere and the mother turns to the only man who can possibly do anything to find her son, the man she hates more than any other - Harlan Miller.
This is not a book populated with nice characters. Miller is, at times, a wretched soul. He hates who he is, what he has become, but under the circumstances this makes him a more believable lead. He becomes a kind of vigilante, working outside the law but with the benefits of his time spent in the police force. He is not a nice man but he is not a bad man. He just wants to do what he feels he has to to make his life bearable. There is a lot of miserable despair, loathing and hate here but it adds to the atmosphere
As you would expect, the criminals range from the pathetic to the truly vile and evil. It is not a comfortable read, but it is a good one - I finished it in 3 days. There are red herrings a plenty, several twists (I believed I knew one of the culprits, and was feeling quite smug as Miller drove up to his house, but then he drove straight past it - I was wrong).
At the heart of this book is the Steel City itself, Sheffield (my home town, as well as the authors') in all its' dark, brooding, northern glory. It lends itself well to the story, and, as a reader, it makes a nice change to be spending time with characters in places you know well.
I wouldn't hesitate to give this story 4.1/2 out of 5 stars. There are at least 3 more Steel City Thrillers to come. The first, Angel of Death is out now (and will be reviewed here in the near future) and features a whole new set of characters at the start of a planned trilogy