Carrying coals to Newcastle proves bloody dangerous for a hack reporter.
London scandal-sheet newshound Stephen Larkin gets sent to Newcastle to cover—what else?—a brewing scandal. A small-time drug-dealer’s been murdered, and Larkin’s avid boss smells big-time connections with concomitant lurid headlines and gory photos. Sidle among the mourners at the funeral, Larkin’s told, see what you can see, promote what you can promote. As it happens, Larkin grew up in and around Newcastle, a schoolmate of the late Wayne Edgell. Off he goes, and almost at once he happens on his former girlfriend, the enigmatic Charlotte, still stunning, still interested, still trouble. She begs him to look into the purported suicide of her friend Mary. Bemused perhaps by resurgent lust, Larkin thinks that’s a good idea, and as a consequence gets seriously sidetracked and sadistically beaten by guys who would have preferred that he mind his own business. It turns out, of course, that Edgell’s death and Mary’s death, plus an assortment of grisly maimings, all gratuitously detailed, are connected.
Waites’s The Mercy Seat (2006) was his sixth, but the first to cross the ocean. His overwrought and purplish debut, originally published in 1997, might just as well have stayed home.