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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cold in Hand. John Harvey. Arrow Books (2008)

A very engaging and enjoyable UK police procedural. In Nottingham Detective Inspector Lynne Kellog is involved in a fatal shooting, and finds herself being publicly blamed for the death by the victim's father. Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick, Lynne Kellog's partner, is called in to lead the investigation into the murder and has to manage the conflict of interest smartly exploited by the victim's father. Lynne Kellog on return to duty finds that a previous murder case at a sauna she was involved in is starting to take a very awkward turn and she has to manage two critical witnesses. DI Resnick's investigation finds itself stranded when a possible lead emerges, Lynne Kellog has to deal with some unwanted attention from a colleague involved in sauna murder. When a new murder shakes up everything, the investigations start to collide personally and professionally before they are driven to messy and horribly credible conclusions.
John Harvey has a masterful control of the plot mechanics , the cast and above all the context of the story. The city of Nottingham is seen from the police point of view as a constantly simmering cauldron of violent crime, carried out by people who are not exactly career criminals, more that they simply live lives where violent action and the willingness to take what they want is as natural as breathing. This context keeps bleeding into the story with apparent news flashes of crimes peppering the story, that slowly become entangled into the greater context of the investigation. This context is vital to the story as it makes the isolation of credible suspects fantastically difficult and the work that has to be done to find them all the more engaging.
John Harvey delivers great plot mechanics, a simple case proves to be extremely difficult in part because of the simplicity, a victim shot in public in front of a group of people who have absolutely no interest in revealing anything to the common enemy, the police. A grieving father who understand how to to use words to cut as effectively as any blade and direct his anger and guilt. A complex plan to smuggle a large number of guns into the country that is really the story of modern slavery. Surrounding, colliding with and desperately trying to influence these events the vivid cast that are bristling with life and all working really hard to get what they want. Charlie Resnick who is coming to the point where could retire if he chose handling a case that centrally involves his partner Lynne Kellog. Balancing the personal and professional is never easy, Resnick is given the room to manage it well while accepting the strain. Lynne Kellog is smart , competent and deeply wounded by the accusations of the victims father. Never distracted enough to loose sight of the implications of the sauna murder as she finds them. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Shields drawn into the investigations after another murder is dedicated, capable and forceful. All of them are surrounded by a cast of sharply drawn supporting players who assist and interere as they see the advantage to doing so. The dense and wide ranging cast make the work that Charlie Resnick, Lynne Kellog  and Karen Shields do more difficult and considerably more credible. None are superhuman, they are experienced and sometimes lucky, they know how to capitalise on luck.
This is top flight crime writing, it develops a whole community for the action to take place in, the plots pulls the cast and the cast force the pace of the plot. It is bleak and harsh,the cast have a weary resilience that allows them to continue and provides enough lift for the reader to engage and enjoy this excellent book.

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