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Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Price of Darkness. Graham Hurley. Orion Publishing Group (2008)

A gripping police procedural with a very engaging cast and a sharp plot. A property developer is murdered in his house in Plymouth with brutal efficiency and a professional attention to detail. Detective Inspector Joe Faraday is assigned to head up the investigation, which is hampered by the scrupulous care with which the murder was carried out. A second murder follows, that of a Government Minister, shot to death when waiting in traffic. DI Faraday is involved in the second investigation until he is pushed out to focus only on the murder of the developer. At the same time disgraced ex-policeman Paul Winter has joined the ranks of Bazza MacKenzie ans major criminal. Winter is on an undercover operation, he finds that his position is growing more and more unclear. The murder investigations unfurl with great care, the reveals are cleverly staged and the evidence gathered in a plausible and engaging way. Winter's position with MacKenzie becomes more and more questionable. Both threads conclude in entirely satisfying ways.
Graham Hurley has written a genuine mystery story, the investigation follows leads, loops back on itself and gradually finds a focus in an gripping and thoughtful way. The cast are given the opportunity to be competent, capable and sometimes simply smart. DI Faraday is a very engaging character, with a passion for bird watching, a deaf mute son and a loving partner he is as committed, cranky and engaged with his life as a experienced professional would be. He is nicely countered by Paul Winter, a policeman who always prided himself on cutting to the heart of a case regardless of the rules and policies. Working without a safety net undercover with a man he is coming to respect Winter is facing life shaping decisions. The thread of police politics that ties the two story lines together is unobtrusively effective.
The tone of the book is low key, the action is is more in the clash of character than in physical confrontation. The depth of the cast and the great context give the action a genuine edge and danger, conversations have heavyweight consequences as much as a gunshot. This is a deceptively straightforward book, there is a great deal going on and Graham Hurley is masterfully directing and controlling the story. A treat.

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