I had just finished The Cuckoo's calling before this and the Advent Killer came as a balm to soothe the wounds inflicted by Rowling.
At a glance, Gunn's crime novel seems run-of-the mill, with arresting one liners and a jacket desperately calling for attention. No fault there, after all he is no established name but going by the book, he may soon become one.
The basic premise is this murderer who churns out dead women every Sunday starting from the first week of December (hence the title). Hot on his trail is DI Hawkins, newly promoted and whose reputation lies on nabbing the killer. Although competent, she is not without her own baggage - personal and emotional, often colouring her perceptions and consequently, her handling of the case.
Crime novels are quite basic in nature - a murder and the detective solving the murder. But what sets the Scotts and Baileys, the Veras, the Barbara Havers apart is their quirkiness and the personas they inhabit. In this Gunn has done a great job. He has created a humane and an endearing character of Antonia Hawkins and portrays her with conviction.
Gunn's grasp of police politics, the gossip and the pressures they live with shows him off to good advantage. It is his keen eye for observation and the most crucial element of a crime novel- the ability to keep the reader interested enough to make them turn another page is what won me over. That, for me is the hallmark of a good writer.
It is this that makes it worthy of four stars - a well written novel with strong characters. This is despite the fact that the plot comes across as tad predictable.
But it is the characters that stay with you long after you are finished with the book. Perhaps what will follow is a slew of cases based on these characters of Hawkins and Maguire the Amercian colleague who happens to be her work partner and ex-lover.
Their relationship is very conveniently left open-ended and it would be interesting to see how their relationship pans out in the face of new cases and the complications arising thereof.