I’ve been a fan of Dave Jackson’s writing and his main character Callum Doyle ever since his first book Pariah was published.
Now after The Helper in 2012 Cal Doyle is back for the third time in Marked.
In a highly unusual and partially very funny opening scene parts of the dismembered body of a young girl are being recovered.
Megan Hamlyn has been raped and tortured before her violent death and the MO bears a lot of similarities to a case Cal worked on a few years back.
This time it’s very personal for Doyle. He is still frustrated that he couldn’t bring the killer of the first girl to justice. Doyle’s prime suspect for Megan’s murder is Stanley Proust, a tattoo artist. Doyle is convinced he committed the first murder, too, even if there was never any hard evidence. Doyle isn’t planning of letting Proust get away with it a second time – no matter what the cost.
Doyle embarks on some kind of personal vendetta, even going so far as actively and physically threatening Proust.
This does not go down well with LeBlanc, Doyle’s new partner, who tries to play everything by the book. Doyle doesn’t know what to do with LeBlanc as he fears the mind of the young detective has been poisoned by Schneider, the older cop that LeBlanc was working with before. Doyle knows Schneider isn’t exactly a fan of his – to say the least.
Proust reports him and Doyle gets a very distinct slap on the wrist by his boss and is told to back off. But Doyle isn’t prepared to let go. He gets Proust so scared and desperate that the tattoo artist pays somebody to literally beat him to a pulp so he can hang it on Doyle hoping to finally get him to stay away.
Meanwhile a slight friendship forms between Megan’s mother, Nicole, and Cal who promises her to find her daughter’s killer. Cal provides some emotional comfort for Nicole while her husband Steve hides his feelings behind a wall of sheer anger.
As if the case gnawing away at his soul wasn’t enough for Cal an old ‘acquaintance’ of his is back, the more than cruel and terribly cross-eyed Lucas Bartok. He blackmails Doyle with a certain ‘blast from the past’ and Doyle has actually no other choice than to play along. And the job Bartok wants him to do sounds simple enough. All Cal has to do is find a dangerous man called Ruger and get the ring of Bartok’s deceased brother back from that man. Little does Cal know Bartok is playing him like a harp while not exactly telling him every detail.
So before Cal knows it he is getting no way nearer to arresting Proust, he’s into deep trouble at the precinct and it looks like his whole life may take a turn for the worse soon…
After Pariah and The Helper there is definitely a shift for Doyle’s character in Marked.
Jackson brings out another trait in his protagonist Doyle. Sometimes Cal’s determination seems beyond control. He thinks he knows the truth and doesn’t see left or right going as far as terribly harassing his suspect. I was quite surprised by his methods and couldn’t help myself for feeling with poor Stanley who had done nothing wrong except once been Cal’s suspect for another murder.
I was glad the character Paulson returned, whom I actually got to like a lot, not only because he saved Doyle’s arse before but because this time he also acts as the voice of reason and an actual friend to Doyle, trying to get him focused again and to have him avoid any grave mistakes that could cost him his career or worse, even his life.
Another wonderful character in the book is the victim’s mother, Nicole Hamlyn.
Jackson made the hurt and the pain both parents felt tangible for the reader without any overdone pathos. I don’t want to spoil the story for the readers but the way how different Nicole and Steve Hamlyn dealt with the consequences of their daughter’s death was comprehensible and very moving. I think in terms of real life it could have happened exactly like that.
Loathsome mobster Lucas Bartok is once again back in Marked, the scenes with Bartok and his men charged with testosterone and always with not only a breath but more likely the stench of mortal danger hanging in the air.
The way all plot lines come together in the last quarter of Marked in a very violent, bloody and truly unexpected ending left me quite breathless!
So, needless to say, I am already looking forward to Dave Jackson’s next book with Callum Doyle!


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