Book review: A Rush of Blood by David Mark
A Rush of Blood - David Mark
David Mark assembles an eccentric bunch of characters for his latest standalone book outside of his DS Aector McAvoy series (which isn't exactly conventional in its characterisation either). Actually A Rush of Blood is populated almost exclusively with characters who are not just eccentric, but rather all of them have to one degree or another an element that leans towards downright weird or disturbing. East End Londoners evidently, and Mark puts them all to good use in the cause of a suitably dark tale on streets once stalked by Jack the Ripper.
Most of this bunch congregate around the Jolly Bonnet, a gin bar in the East End that is also a kind of museum of historical medical curiosities (and I'm not just speaking to the clientele). There's the proprietor Molly Shackleton, an ex-police officer who fantasises about being a Victorian prostitute stalked by Jack the Ripper. Her 11 year old daughter Hilda is relatively normal, but she's afraid that something terrible has happened to Mesa, her Lithuanian friend from dance class. In the Jolly Bonnet you'll also find Dr Lottie, a friend of the family as well as a client, she's a renowned pathologist who is also something of a YouTube celebrity making death sexy for those morbidly obsessed with the paraphernalia of death. The bar inevitably also attracts all manner of collectors and enthusiasts of the bizarre.
Then there's Mr Farkas, a book collector, a doctor and academic with an interest in collecting historical medical equipment and paraphernalia. He's also a schizophrenic who suffers from hallucinations and has substituted his medication for laudanum. Farkas has come into possession of an interesting tome written in 1665 by Jean Denys revealing the secrets of soul transference through blood transfusion. It's a subject of particular interest to Farkas, who subscribes to the belief that certain types of blood from youths, animals, even those who have died a sudden violent death can have properties to enhance human capacity and extend life. Farkas is clearly of a mind to test those theories for himself.
A Rush of Blood gives David Mark the opportunity to indulge in the macabre in a way that perhaps might not sit so well in his brilliant DS McAvoy series, but there are certainly commonalities. The last time we came up against a bunch of Russian gangsters in a DS McAvoy novel for example (Scorched Earth) things got extremely violent. Given the title, the additional element of horror and the involvement of Lithuanian gangs who have their own ideas about how justice is served, you can count on things turning dark and bloody in A Rush of Blood, but the most essential feature that is common here is the brilliance of Mark's writing which is just as rich and colourful as his characters.
This is consequently as thoroughly dark and entertaining as the best of David Mark's writing with the additional quality that he understands what makes people tick, and in many ways (as with the last DS McAvoy book, the eighth, Cold Bones) what is often most important to them is blood, as in family. Located further south than usual, A Rush of Blood is also about London and Londoners, contrasting the old East London streets once menaced by Jack the Ripper and the Krays with the new London which has a very different kind of society and cultural identity, but which in many ways is just as violent and holds other dark secrets.