Mark Hill has had previous careers as a journalist and as a producer for BBC Radio 2, and he has been the winner of two Sony Gold awards in the latter capacity. None of this, of course, necessarily qualifies him to write the kind of storming debut that is now de rigueur if any fledgling crime writer wishes to make a mark, but that is exactly what he’s done in this ambitious novel. The Two O’clock Boy takes the clichés of the modern police procedural and forges something new and impressive from them, even though the accoutrements may initially appear to be familiar. His protagonist is morally ambiguous copper DI Ray Drake, and although we’ve seen his like before, this is a particularly complex and interesting variation on the character. Prior to the narrative, a children’s home, Longacre, was razed to the ground. In the present, a sinister figure describing himself as the eponymous ‘Two O’Clock Boy’ appears to be in the process of eliminating all of those brought up in the home. It’s Ray Drake’s job to track down this murderous figure, but there are complications arising from the night of the fire, which have massive significance for the troubled Drake. Those feeling we do not need another London-set crime series (and who could blame them?) will be quickly disabused of that idea after tackling this authoritatively written and unsettling novel. It’s lengthy (at over 400 pages), but justifies its considerable wordcount at every turn. At a stroke, Mark Hill has joined the upper echelons of London crime writers.
The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill
Sphere, £7.99 9780751563238