Book review: Hope to Die by David Jackson

When schoolteacher Mary Cowper is found dead in the grounds of Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, the police are stumped to find a motive.

Hope to Die by David Jackson
Hope to Die by David Jackson

A regular churchgoer, good neighbour, kind to animals and known for her charitable work, Mary was savagely beaten to death with a lump hammer in a murder driven by the killer’s merciless and chilling rage.

Could a victim who seems to have been almost perfect be part of a perfect crime?

Back to taunt, tease and enthral us is Wirral-born David Jackson, a top notch crime writer with a somewhat worrying talent for grisly, gruesome murders, a fine line in red herrings and the ability to send his readers running for cover.

Best known for his outstanding New York detective Callum Doyle thrillers, Jackson has moved nearer to home for this gripping and atmospheric crime series set amongst the dark streets of Liverpool and starring a fascinating, multi-faceted police officer haunted by events in his past.

Hope to Die, second book in the exciting DS Nathan Cody series, is an impressive follow-up to last year’s powerful opener A Tapping at My Door, serving up the same addictive blend of brilliantly drawn characters, authentic police procedural and breathtaking insight into the minds of both hunters and hunted.

DS Nathan Cody of Liverpool’s Major Incident Team is still bearing the mental and physical scars of an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong and left his partner dead. The gang was never caught and now Cody just about manages to keep it together but struggles to focus on the job.

What isn’t helping him is the return to the team of DC Megan Webley, a former girlfriend who was seriously injured in a recent case, and a series of unnerving silent night time phone calls from someone who leaves no caller ID and no voicemail.

When 42-year-old Mary Cowper is viciously murdered close to the Anglican Cathedral on a bitterly cold and snowy winter’s night, the police team are struck by the ferocity of the killing which ‘speaks only of hatred.’


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Wherever Cody digs and whoever he speaks to, the victim seems to be angelic. But did Mary have a dark side? Cody knows that ‘well-meaning religious zeal is often only a stone’s throw from its flip side.’

If they are to find the killer, the team need to know more about Mary but as the ghosts of Cody’s past start to draw ever closer and the phone calls become more threatening, it’s all he can do to hold on to his sanity. And then the killer strikes again…

Jackson digs deep below the surface of the human psyche in the high-tension search for an elusive and enigmatic serial killer, allowing us tantalising glimpses into the motivations of the murderer and the personalities of the disparate members of the police team charged with tracking down the perpetrator.

But it is Nathan Cody, a man whose life seems to be perpetually engulfed in trauma, who is the lynchpin of this dark and fast-paced series. His dangerous vulnerability, his doggedness, his sheer complexity and the mysterious threat that casts a shadow over his life add a powerful punch to the twists and turns of a high-stakes murder inquiry.


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From the truly terrifying, cold-blooded killings and the dark humour of the seasoned cops to a pulsating race for the truth and on to the final, electrifying showdown, this is a perfectly executed thriller from a master crime writer.

The next chapter in Cody’s chequered career can’t come a moment too soon!

(Zaffre, hardback, £20)