I admit now that the very first sentence of Wood's grim beginning pulled me in and gripped me. From there, I simply fell into Wood's story.
Part police procedural, part psychological thriller, Wood entices us with a number of false leads and blind alleyways. What I loved here was Wood's characterisation. His main protagonist, DCI Matilda Darke felt fully-formed from the start, but Wood brings fresh meat to her story so that she was three-dimensional by the end. I felt her pain brought on by a spectacular fall from grace which coincided with the death of a loved one. Her life had been turned inside-out as well as upside-down – but you could feel that despite her defeatist attitude, Matilda was a fighter.
But this is not only Matilda's story. The investigation is shared with the murder team and we are introduced to some very interesting characters who I am sure are going to take their own place in the spotlight in future books.
Where Wood excels is with Jonathan Harkness, the man who was found in the house with his murdered parents. With great empathy, Wood describes the solitary life Jonathan leads. His books are his only solace as he cuts off any emotional ties from the outside world. Jonathan's retreat from the world is brought into sharp focus by Wood's sensitive prose. As with Matilda, Wood holds a mirror at two people who have been affected by tragedy and its aftermath – one recently and one in the past.
'For Reasons Unknown' is a stunningly strong debut. As Wood delves in to the depths of his characters psyche, such was his fine prose, I began to wonder if these people were in fact real, they were all so well-rounded. I read 'For Reasons Unknown' in two sittings, I was that entranced by his story. I am already looking forward to how Matilda Darke copes with her next case. I expect great things from the dark imagination of Michael Wood.