Nighthawking is the second book in the Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler series written by Russ Thomas. These British police procedurals are set in South Yorkshire, where the openly gay protagonist DS Tyler is a member of the Cold Case Review Unit (CCRU) of the Sheffield Police.
Nighthawking is set about a year after the events that transpired at the end of Firewatching. DS Tyler is working with (formerly PC) now DC Mina Rabbani on a cold case involving the disappearance of a young boy when the body of an unknown young Asian woman with ancient Roman gold coins over her eyes is discovered on the grounds of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens by a nighthawker, someone who uses metal detectors to seek out buried and hidden items of value on public lands.
DS Tyler is busy with and distracted by his obsessive investigation into a personally significant cold case: his own police detective father's suspicious death two decades ago when Tyler was a teenager. It thus falls to Mina to try and solve a case which is much more complicated than it first appears.
As with the first book in the series, the primary appeal of the story is seeing first hand how Tyler and Mina, both outsiders in the police force due to race, gender and sexual orientation, go about their jobs as police officers trying to solve crimes. In Nighthawking, there's less depiction of Tyler’s gayness but there’s more depiction of Mina’s intelligence and I’d say that’s a net positive. That being said, it’s a lot rarer to have an openly gay police detective than it is to have a smart female police detective in these genre books so I hope that the author doesn't shy away from depicting his protagonist's sexuality in future books, just as one would expect it to show up as one aspect of a heterosexual character’s life.
Another similarity Nighthawking has with Firewatching is the complexity of the plot, along with a veiled depiction of events from the perspective of the perpetrator. In Firewatching there were curious blog posts describing the work of a serial arsonist as intertextual elements between chapters. In Nighthawking we get brief reports from nighthawkers summarizing the results of their forays and searches. Both times we eventually realize that these elements are providing clues about the identity of the perpetrator.
There are many plots in Nighthawking. Tyler finds a lead which may lead to more information about his father’s death, and he also ends up cracking the cold case of the disappearance of the young boy, mostly inadvertently, as Rabbani does most of the work to identify the dead girl and whoever killed her. Of course, other dead bodies and near-fatal incidents also appear in the book along the way before we get a surprising resolution to the book’s primary mystery. The final scene of the book is a stunner; it presents the reader with new information about Tyler’s father’s death that will surely reverberate in the next book in the series, Cold Reckoning.
Title: Nighthawking (DS Adam Tyler, #2).
Author: Russ Thomas.
Length: 384 pages.
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Date Published: February 23, 2021.
Date Read: December 21, 2022.
OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).
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