I’m not generally a detective fiction fan. I went through a phase of reading, and enjoying, stuff from Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham, but eventually I lapsed back into my more usual genres, though I still enjoy the occasional crime stuff on the tellybox. That said, I did rather like the first outing for DCI Harker, ‘The Book Of Solomon’, which introduced me (and many others) to the grumpy but effective lead and his Seargeant sidekicks DS Critchley and pathologist Griffin.
This time out, Harker is enjoying a quiet holiday in Whitby when a crime fiction author rocks up at his hotel for an event and inadvertently turns all his plans tits up by getting murdered under his nose. Critchley and Griffin are sent to help him solve the murder when he’d much rather let the locals handle it whilst he rams kids on the bumper cars, but when you’ve got a reputation for being good at solving these sort of things there’s no escaping.
This initial volume is part one, the same as the previous story was in two volumes, sixty pages that will leave readers panting for the conclusion. As in all good detective fiction it gets the two most important ingredients spot on – the characters and the procedure. Harker is very much a cross between Morse and Gene Hunt, and old school detective whose idea of proper policing is ‘Fast cars and lots of shouting’, and who hates in when TV detectives stumble on murders everywhere the go – the irony of him doing just that is not lost on him. Critchley is a perfect foil, more adept at dealing with people and understanding exactly how to handle the Guv and get the best work out of him.
Whilst there is no sign of the titular hound as yet, some swampy moors indicate that a Conan Doyle-esque woofer might rock up at some point in part 2. It’s a great book, and as ever much praise goes to artist Vincent Danks, whose architecture and place setting is first class, whilst his characters have real depth and identity. Writer Roger Gibson has fun with what is a classic character that deserves to be nabbed by Netflix or whoever and thrust at an unsuspecting nation starved of ‘real’ coppers who smoke and call people ‘luv’. His dialogue again shines here, and many smiles are raised simply from the characters’ interactions.
This is a comic book for anyone who has ever enjoyed detective fiction, suitable for any age. If, like Harker, you’re under the impression that ‘Nothing exciting ever happens in Whitby’ then ‘The Black Hound’ will change your mind in a very entertaining way.