Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. And then, one morning, a body is found in the Gardens. A young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up.
Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body?
In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable . . . and willing to kill to keep what they find.
Nighthawking by Russ Thomas is the superb sequel to Firewatching, his nerve tingling debut novel.
There is always a sense of trepidation when you pick up an author’s new novel, will it live up to the promise he showed in his first book, building on both the characters and the story arc? Russ Thomas not only does both, he does so within a provocative tale of corruption and murder. Importantly he builds on the events of the first novel, but not to the extent that you can’t either read this as part of a series or as a standalone! There are enough subtle references to events in Firewatching to allow you read Nighthawking only if that is what you prefer. Personally I like to read books in series order, because I feel you get a richer experience, but it so nice to know you can do either.
As for Nighthawking it is a superb! You know you have a cracker in your hands, when you whizz through a book it at a rate of knots, putting life on hold until you’ve read the final page. This was me! Picking it up at any opportunity that came to me and feeling cheated when I had to focus on real life instead.
Characterisation is yet again superlative. From the main characters such as Adam Taylor and Rabbani, we have a new cohort personalities that fill Nighthawking. From the Nighthawkers of the title, seemingly harmless treasure hunters, to students and hardened criminals. Russ Thomas brings them all alive and makes them two dimensional, forcing me on more than one occasion to reassess my feelings towards them, because i never knew which of them I could really trust. I loved how he allowed us to get to know Adam in more detail and also, introduced more nuanced reflection on the actions and decisions he makes. Best of all is how Rabbani maybe his subordinate, but she is never a lesser character than Adam himself, the workhorse of the tale, her commitment and frustrations with those around her are something so many can relate to.
In my case having read Firewatching it has a group of protagonists that I already knew and cared about, meaning I was invested in the story straight away. Then there was the antagonist or in this case antagonists, because the writer cleverly presents us with multiple possible contenders and then leads us on a merry dance, before with a clever slight of hand, throws a curve ball into the mix and left me feeling bamboozled by the killers identity. It is such a clever story, that follows more than one storyline, which in the hands of a lesser writer, could have become bogged down in confusion, but it flows with ease between the tale of a killer and Adam Tyler’s continued search for answers to a tragedy that has plagued his life! The tension comes not just from the teams hunt for a killer, but the interplay between them all. There are scenes that show the pressure they are under from above, the politics at play, as well as the real threat to their careers if they fail to track the killer fast enough to keep both the public and their superiors happy. It creates between them a tension that feels real and tangible and adds to the story a feeling that they are walking on a tightrope, one wrong step, could see them freefalling into professional and personal failure. Placing their lives in danger and leaving me as a reader, thrilled and excited for what comes next!
About the author
Russ Thomas was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. After a few ‘proper’ jobs (among them: pot-washer, optician’s receptionist, supermarket warehouse operative, call-centre telephonist, and storage salesman) he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. His highly-acclaimed debut novel, Firewatching, is the first in the DS Adam Tyler series and published in February 2020. Nighthawking, the second book in the series, will publish in February 2021.