Original Skin is the second book in the DS Aector McAvoy series, set in the gritty, down-at-heel northern port city of Hull. The debut book, The Dark Winter, introduced us to this very different kind of copper. Aector is a lumbering gentle giant, with red hair and a face that shows his every emotion. Despite all he's experienced, and being surrounded by tough-as-nails colleagues and villains, he hasn't learned to be cynical. He is a compassionate soul, through and through, no matter what that costs him.
The Dark Winter started with a hard-to-take crime, the public murder of a young girl, but Original Skin begins with a far more dark and brutal murder. The multi-threaded plot also includes a violent drug war over the marijuana market, the gamesmanship of local politics, played at the level of a full-contact sport, and the dark side of an adult sex games club.
As in The Dark Winter, Aector's refuge from the trials of his job is his home, with his wife Roisin, who comes from a "Traveller" family, and their two small children. In this book, we learn a little more about Roisin's past and about the Traveller world she came from.
In many ways, each thread of the plot is about the clash of different worlds. The social values of the Travellers are sometimes so opposed to Aector's that the difference threatens his relationship with Roisin. The drug war represents a new, highly organized and shadowy criminal hierarchy displacing the old-time, homegrown villains. The sex club, which had seemed like an environment to play at taking risks, was confronted by a new element that turned the play-acting risks real––and deadly.
A more comic-relief kind of clash occurs in Aector's relationship with his brash boss, Trish Pharaoh. The two couldn't be more different, which is probably why they work so well together. Though, I suppose, "well" might not be the correct adverb for a relationship in which Pharaoh tells Aector that she frequently wants to club him over the head.
Somehow, Aector always seems to stumble into the oddest situations: having to chase down a runaway horse in city traffic and horse-whisper him into compliance, thus saving the horse from a tranquilizer-gun shot at best; being challenged to a bare-knuckled fight to preserve his honor; bringing cops and suspects home for breakfast with the wife and playtime with the kids.
If you're looking for a refreshingly different protagonist and a gritty, north-of-England style police procedural, give the Aector McAvoy series a try.