SERIES REVIEW: D.I. Ray Drake by Mark Hill
It doesn’t look as though there’s going to be another D.I. Ray Drake novel for a while, so I’ve decided to tell you my thoughts about the first two books in this series in this quick series review post. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Sphere, for accepting my request to read and review the first book via NetGalley, and to my mum for lending me her copy of book two!
The Two O’Clock Boy (also known as His First Lie), introduces us to D.I. Ray Drake. Drake is an enigma. He has a murky past which he refuses to talk about, his wife has recently passed away, and his relationship with his daughter has become increasingly estranged following the loss of her mother.
When figures from Drake’s past being turning up dead, murdered by a mysterious culprit nicknamed Two O’Clock Boy, Drake will go to whatever lengths necessary to conceal his past. Even if those lengths involve putting his job (and his family) at risk…
The Two O’Clock Boy is utterly brilliant. The slippery slope of corruption which Drake finds himself sliding down is gripping, and it was impossible to resist reading just one more chapter to see how much further Drake would go. The extended cast of characters is interesting too – particularly Flick, a fellow police officer who has a lot of family drama going on behind the scenes. This book follows multiple characters to craft a detailed and immersive crime story which views the case from all angles, and each viewpoint is equally interesting. Often with crime novels which switch from person to person, I find myself struggling to stay connected to the story and desperate to get back to one or two of the key players. The Two O’Clock Boy was the complete opposite, and the switching of viewpoints kept the pace driving forward at an irresistible rate.
There are a lot of flashbacks and these break the story up nicely. However, it was a bit of a shock to the system when we first travelled back in time, as I haven’t read too many crime novels which utilise non-chronological timelines, and it took me a little while to get my head around it.
My only issue with this novel is that it feels as though there’s a bit too much going on at points. The first chapter features some very important foreshadowing (I’m warning you of that now so you remember to keep it in mind throughout your reading of the story!), but by the time it became relevant I’d completely forgotten that it had happened because so much had gone on.
I gave The Two O’Clock Boy four stars, and I was very excited to carry on with the second book in the D.I. Ray Drake series.
Unfortunately, It Was Her did not live up to my expectations. Admittedly, these were very high. After reading The Two O’Clock Boy I thought I’d discovered a new favourite crime author, so I was hoping that the sequel was going to be a five star.
I can’t say too much about how It Was Her starts without spoiling the events at the end of The Two O’Clock Boy, but I will say that something occurs which causes a dramatic amount of strain and tension between Drake and Flick. I wanted to see how that story was going to play out, and I wanted to learn more about Drake’s past. Instead Mark Hill decided to focus on a new series of crimes across London.
In It Was Her we follow three characters who are breaking into wealthy people’s homes while they’re away on holiday or business trips so they can see how the other half live. One of their excursions gets interrupted when the homeowner returns early, and the series of break-ins quickly morphs into a series of murders.
Unfortunately, after how interesting The Two O’Clock Boy was, I found myself struggling to care about the new characters or their motivations. I wonder whether I would have enjoyed to plot of It Was Her if it was the case which was used to introduce Drake, as I would have been even more invested in the events in The Two O’Clock Boy if I had already been intrigued by Drake’s character and desperate to find out more about his past.
While The Two O’Clock Boy kept me on my toes and was unpredictable, I was disappointed to discovered I’d worked out the big twist in It Was Her very quickly. I kept hoping that something else was going to happen so that I could experience the same level of shock and surprise that had me tearing through the pages of book one in my excitement, but unfortunately It Was Her is rather predictable.
That being said, the tension throughout still had my heart in my throat. A subplot develops between Drake and Flick’s new boyfriend which kept me intrigued – and caused even more strain in the relationship between the colleagues – and I found myself wanting to spend more time focusing on that drama, rather than the crime. That’s not how you should feel about a crime novel, but it’s evidence of how brilliantly Mark Hill crafts his characters.
I ended up giving It Was Her three stars, because although I still loved these characters and enjoyed Mark Hill’s writing style, the story just wasn’t as good as I was expecting.
I am hoping that Mark Hill chooses to continue the D.I. Ray Drake series, as It Was Her was released in 2018 and there’s currently no news on a third book. Mark Hill is now writing as M.K. Hill and releasing the D.I. Sasha Dawson novels, so I will be picking those two books up sooner rather than later. It Was Her had a cliffhanger ending, so I hope we get to know how Drake’s story continues.
Thank you so much for reading this review. If you’ve read either of M.K. Hill’s novels, let me know if you’d recommend them down in the comments!
See you soon,