It doesn’t seem particularly appropriate to be reviewing a book called Depth Of Despair over the jolly festive period, but if you like a good thriller to curl up with on a winter afternoon, this may be the book for you.

It’s the debut novel by retired banker Bill Kitson (pictured), who landed a three-book deal with publisher Robert Hale Ltd a year ago. Depth Of Despair sold well, to critical acclaim, in Belgium and France, leading publishers to launch a second print.

Born and brought up in Baildon, Bill, 65, is as passionate about thrillers as he is about sport. While living in Menston, he played for the cricket club, and he also played hockey for Bradford and later became an umpire for both hockey and cricket.

It was winning an English prize at college that cemented his love of writing. He grew up reading thrillers by the likes of John Creasey, Edgar Wallace and Leslie Charteris, and was inspired to write his own crime novel by his family history – he says 11 of his ancestors were transported to Australia as convicts.

Bill’s second novel, Chosen, is due for publication on January 29, and his third, Minds That Hate, is scheduled for release in May. Depth Of Despair is that rare thing; a thriller with an intriguing-looking cover. A skull is partly visible beneath murky water, about to be pulled to the surface by a fishing line. Initially put off by the rather bleak book title, the cover picture caught my interest and made me want to turn to the first chapter. I’m not a fan of thrillers – although admittedly I haven’t read many – but I quickly became engrossed in this novel, set in criminal underworlds from very different corners of Europe.

Without giving too much away, it’s set against the discovery of two skeletons at a place called Lamentation Tarn, Detective Mike Nash and his team have little evidence to go on, until a surprising discovery leads them to contact law enforcement agencies in Eastern Europe. Before long, a joint task force is set up to uncover a criminal network involved in the dark worlds of prostitution, drugs and human trafficking, but Nash becomes increasingly distracted by recurring nightmares, internal politics and a striking Russian detective. When a young victim escapes the clutches of an underground gang, Nash begins to gather more evidence. And when the gruesome discovery of further bodies is made during a search of a neighbouring tarn, he has a much bigger crime on his hands.

Can Nash confront his demons, focus on the case and bring the killers to justice? It’s well worth giving this gripping page-turner a go to find out.

This story would have to be post-watershed if it was ever turned into a TV drama. The haunting prologue, set in Bosnia in 1996, contains a brutal murder and a child rape. And, with a “grinning skull” discovered almost immediately, you get a taste of what’s to come. Heartbeat it ain’t.

Bill is a skilled writer who draws his reader into the action and keeps them gripped throughout. A dark, intelligent thriller, it may provide some welcome escapism from all the froth on telly this Christmas.