Book Review: The Hollow Men (Dr Harry Kent Book 1) by Rob McCarthy

The Hollow Men
Author: Rob McCarthy
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication Date: 25 February 2016
A new must-read crime series for fans of Mark Billingham and Sarah Hilary: introducing Harry Kent, a police surgeon working with the Met, determined to help those the world would rather brush aside.
Dr Harry Kent: former Army medic, hospital registrar, police surgeon, drug addict and defender of anyone the world would rather brush aside. His critics say he has a weakness for lost causes.
There are some problems Harry can’t solve. His guilt, his lack of sleep, his fractured relationships.
But when he sits down across from a sick teenager, he knows what to do – even if that teenager is armed. 

When the negotiations go wrong and the boy is rushed to hospital, Harry soon realises the danger is not over. Someone wants his patient dead, someone who has access to medical records, someone who will stop at nothing to hide the truth.
Harry knows he can’t save everyone. But he won’t stop trying…
The Hollow Men sees Dr Harry Kent, a London police surgeon and ER doctor, attending the scene of a very tense situation. 17 year old gang member Solomon Idris is in urgent need of medical assistance, yet he has taken a restaurant full of people hostage. Harry finds himself going into the restaurant in an attempt to help. The situation quickly goes from bad to worse and, with Idris in hospital clinging to life, Harry finds himself entangled in a case that may be more far-reaching than initially anticipated.
Harry makes a good protagonist, flawed and yet compelling. He is a former army medic and a drug addict, relying on amphetamines to get him through his shifts. Harry is teamed with the tough and efficient DI Frankie Noble from Southwark CID, a woman who is no stranger to tragedy. The two make a good investigative team as they work to uncover the horrific events that led Idris to breaking point. The cast of supporting characters were varied and provided some complexity to the story, particularly James Lahiri, a former army medic who saved Harry’s life when in Afghanistan.

A lot of the police/crime novels I read tend to be set in the US. Despite this, I found myself drawn to the fact that The Hollow Man is set in inner-city London, a place that I find to be almost as foreign to me as those US settings, despite living only an hour away. McCarthy certainly brings a good sense of place and realism to the story.
The tale largely maintains a level of tension and suspense throughout, although some of that tension is, at times, temporarily overshadowed by some slightly too-lengthy medical explanations. This is understandable in view of the fact that the author was (I believe) a medical-student when writing this novel and students are often keen to show off their newly-acquired knowledge. Fortunately McCarthy has put this knowledge to good use and whilst some of the medical descriptions may be a bit in-depth for my liking, they are understandable and his inside knowledge does provide a real air of authenticity.
The Hollow Men is a good blend of police procedural and medical thriller. It is a gripping tale set against a realistic backdrop of inner-city London. A solid and enjoyable debut from McCarthy.
About the Author
Rob McCarthy is a medical student in his fourth year of study, who started writing crime novels when the neuroanatomy textbooks threatened to take his sanity. He lives in South London, where he spends his time eating, drinking, learning, reading, writing, cycling and occasionally sleeping. He is currently working on two more stories featuring Dr Harry Kent.
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