Northern crime author of A Wash Of Black teases us with near miss ‘aha’ moments in his debut ‘whodunit’ storyline..
King Of The North aka Chris McDonald has conquered the North with his debut novel called A Wash Of Black. We hope you like this triumph status, Chris! We call him this because he seems to have cleverly manipulated his readers into believing the killer behind superstar Anna Symmons, quite few times! Not only this, his novel was signed by Red Dog Press (Sean Coleman, Owner of the indie publisher house). Chris also stars in the podcast Blood Brothers Podcast with Sean Coleman and Rob Parker. We first heard of A Wash Of Black when we visited Noir At The Bar for the first time. When adding it to the list, we got the hunch we would enjoy this and indeed we did! This year Chris would have been at his first Harrogate Festival but due to the obvious facts it was not going ahead. Chris, here’s one on us 🍺
What is A Wash Of Black About?
DI Erika Piper works with the Manchester Police department alongside her partner Liam.
DI Piper comes back from annual leave after suffering from a horrific stabbing leaving her unable to conceive children. We learn that she is a nervous, unsettled woman but inside leads a strong mentality when it comes to working on the force. She has her wits about her, always following her instincts when it comes to suspects. On her first day back, she is called to the ice rink where a murder has taken place. Only it’s not a typical murder… it’s a scene from a movie called Blood Ice and the victim is the leading actress Anna Symmons.
The two detectives go to question the partner Rory who claims to have been on a business trip but we get the feeling he is hiding something else. They spot him at a hardware store then darting off in his Porche. What has he got to hide? Next, we discover the actress had been drugged in a bar the night before with her old director Ruben and Ed. Lastly, a film student (Ben McCall) in one of the film tours is a university student studying film. He questions why the book is nothing like the film and why had they not conducted the murder as accurately as it should have been done. This leads Ruben to get angry in front of the police and the fans so kicks off at him outside the book store. Ruben gets arrested and Ben is nowhere to be seen…
What’s our verdict?
So in the first 100 pages, McDonald has already given us five possible suspects. It was hilarious to have met the homeless man who honestly admits he was going to rob Rory but something seemed off about him. McDonald cleverly conducts a ‘whodunnit’ plot where he misleads us into conclusions on what really happened. Yes, we were fooled once or twice! If we have to be honest, it’s already a little hard to guess at this point in the book. He references 3-5 good noir gore films like Sin City which puts his stamp on the book entirely. It was a sweet gesture of him to say this is what I like and a part of what makes my style.
The style of writing is in first person but a womans point of view: DI Erika Piper. This is really surprising from a male author. Yes, it has been done before by many but it was more at how he focused on the not so girly girl approach to her personality. There are scenes in the book (like the services to Conwy and the book shop where people applaud) are really places McDonald has visited at a time. He is bringing his life into the book in a descriptive tone.
We learned a few things about the characters. There is a side of Erika that we need to learn more about. There is similarity between her and James Patterson’s Lindsay Boxer. Erika is more of a analyst rather than an impulse (Lindsay) reactor. Throughout the storyline, McDonald manages to maintain strong feminine dominance within the character. She’s intriguing and careful but reserved. There is little hesitation in this aspect of the character because she seems really knocked but this was assumed correct through the horrific event she experienced. It made her seem raw, genuine and showed her good hearted values. For some reason, it warming when she thought about Reuben in the cinema and the way we saw her relationship with Tom unfold. McDonald said in an interview with Linda’s Book Bag that he would ask Emily Blunt to play Erika Piper. When visioning this, we can see that he wanted to use Blunt’s talent to really visualise the character’s expressions emotionally. This would show the British-esque nature of his tone. The one character that stuck out for us was the homeless guy, Scot. He said to Erika: “I was going to rob him”. Sorry?! You don’t admit this to the police! It really made us giggle. We hope to see more humour in the book next time too.
The ending of the book was quite a suprise because of the last line. We know that there will be a follow up with Erika. We are glad there will be some progression in her life and relationships. We can see that she will recover from her tragedy. It was clever in the way McDonald tied up the characters. There is one thing that annoyed us though… Liam her partner did show he was a very caring partner and always showed her support. However, it felt like there was more offered from Liam than there was from Tom as a person. As we mentioned, as there is another book does this give him more time to build Tom as a person? What does Tom have to hide?