Body Breaker

Written by Mike Craven — Mike Craven’s star has been flying high and fast. He was nominated for the CWA Debut Dagger in 2013 with his first full length novel about DI Avison Fluke, Born in a Burial Gown. Body Breaker is Fluke’s return, will it be a triumphant one?

This one opens with the funeral of a child witnessed through the eyes of a woman. The child died of natural causes, but she doesn’t believe it. She knows exactly who was to blame and she swears revenge…

DI Avison Fluke is called to view a severed hand on the green of the third hole at Cockermouth golf course. It seems to have appeared out of nowhere. A search of the course reveals the rest of the corpse on another part of the course.

The body has been dismembered, cut into pieces small enough for animals to drag away and consume, a process which is underway. From the shape of the skull Fluke guesses it to be a man. Other than that there’s no way to ID the body, not even clothes. In the centre of the scattered body parts is a large pool of blood, it’s obvious the person was killed here in a fit of anger. The police were clearly meant to discover the corpse like this – the murderer is sending a message.

After dealing with the crime scene Fluke drives to the remote cabin nestled in the Cumbrian woods above Ullswater where he lives with his lawyer girlfriend, Bridie. When he arrives he finds her upset. Someone has posted a shotgun shell through their door – Fluke thinks it’s the landowners where his cabin is located, trying to drive them away. The intimidation has been underway for months, so Fluke asks his best friend and colleague DS Matt Towler, an ex-para, to help. Towler sets up some cameras around the property to catch anyone approaching.

The following day at the office the fingerprint analysis has arrived, the corpse is identified as Mark Cadden from London. He has a record of minor crimes, and seems to have been an animal rights activist. However, Fluke’s investigation is halted by the arrival of DCI John Reyes and his team from the Met because he has stumbled into an active investigation and they’re here to take over. Fluke is off the case.

Fluke goes home. He has a visitor, a young woman called Jinx is at his door. Apparently the victim Mark Cadden told her to find Fluke and hide. Jinx doesn’t know why, but she followed her husband’s wishes and now she’s here. Puzzled, Fluke questions Jinx. He doesn’t know Cadden. However, he soon realises Cadden is a pseudonym. He’s actually Mark Bishop, Fluke’s best friend from when they both served as commandos in Northern Ireland. But how did Bishop wind up dead on a golf course? And what has it got to do with Fluke? Despite being shouldered off the case, Fluke will find out, putting everything at risk, including turning to the local crime boss Dominic Diamond for help. Will Fluke regret his decision…?

Is Mike Craven’s new novel a triumph? The answer is yes. He has written a fast moving police procedural with multiple twists and turns that’s hard to put down. No fluff here, this is an intelligent, excellently plotted novel which keeps us guessing right up to the end.

The recurring characters are really well drawn and managed creatively to build the plot. The protagonist, Avison Fluke, is a unique character, confident enough in his own abilities to upset his entire team, including his bosses, in his single-minded pursuit of the answers. The downside is this includes his closest friend, Towler, and his girlfriend, Bridie. Nothing gets in his way. Where Fluke cuts through the case with precision Towler is more of a blunt instrument, but equally effective and likeable. Fluke’s life is complicated by Bridie’s presence, he has to think about somebody now, which is sometimes a problem for him. Finally there’s Diamond, a highly intelligent gangster, who has a relationship with Fluke somewhat in the way Big Ger Cafferty does with Rebus in Ian Rankin’s novels.

The conclusion itself is a major cliffhanger. No spoliers here, but it made me want the next Fluke story in my hands right away. And what is a Body Breaker? You’ll have to read the book to find out. More please!

Try some more police procedurals from around the world, or have a look at Mark Billingham’s latest, Love Like Blood.

Caffeine Nights Publishing
Print/Kindle/iBook
£2.31

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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