c/o Random House
20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V2SA
CA 9780434021635, S22.00, www.randomhouse.co.nk
[This book is only available in/through the UK and Canada at this time]
There are two main story lines, and two cases for the cops to pursue, in this newest novel from John Harvey. The first is the murder in Hampstead Heath of a 17-year-old Moldovan boy. assigned to DCI Karen Shields and The Homicide & Serious Crime team. The second falls to DI Trevor Cordon of the Devon and Cornwall Police in Exeter, when a woman he'd known is killed under the wheels of an oncoming train, whether suicide, accident or murder is unknown. Though not strictly his problem, he takes time off the job to investigate it. as the woman in question was known to him from years back and is the mother of a girl who. though many years his junior, he knew and by whom he was intrigued all those years before. There is the tantalizing question of whether or not these two events are connected.
This is. of course, at least nominally, a police procedural, and quite a good one. although the multitude of characters, both 'bad guys' and good, were often difficult for me to keep track of. But of course, being a John Harvey novel, it is much more than that. That title, for one instance, is. typically of a Harvey protagonist, the title of a jazz rune of which Cordon collects every known recording, from Miles Davis to Nina Simone to Dexter Gordon. It is also a character study of the lead cops, entirely different from one another: Karen, a black woman from Jamaica, and Trevor, fifty-ish, with an ex-wife and a grown son from whom he's been estranged but who he believes is now living somewhere in Australia. The author philosophizes about what makes these cops tick: whether "the mystery, the need to see things through to their conclusion, find out how they been put together, how they ticked. Wasn't that one of the reasons people became detectives?" and about "missed chances. Roads not taken. Relationships allowed to drift. Always that nagging question, what if, what if?" Another terrific Harvey novel, and recommended.
Steven M. Forman
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765328762, $25.99, www.tor-forge.com
Eddie Perlmutter, a 61-year-old p.i. in Boca Raton, FL, is still a crusader who cannot, it seems, help himself: He has to save whatever otherwise lost causes present themselves, from homeless people living on the streets, beaches or wherever else, to the endangered sea turtles with nests on the shores. A former Boston cop who, as he says, was that city's "most decorated and demoted policeman in my prime and best marksman on the force," he retired to Boca three years ago. Widowed for many years, he is now living with his gorgeous [and much younger] Haitian-born girlfriend [whose own claim to fame includes cutting a man's head off with a machete before leaving Haiti], still working with Louie Dewey, computer genius extraordinaire. Eddie having been dubbed the Boca Knight, and attained not a small bit of celebrity, by a young newspaper reporter, following an anti-Nazi rally in Palm Beach, among other things, he runs the Boca Knights Detective Agency, with Louie's invaluable assistance.
Louie is only one of many other quirky characters with equally quirky names, e.g., "Three Bag Bailey," a homeless woman, and Liam Michael "Mad Mick" Murphy, a journalist from Key West. Although brutal and violent in many spots, the book is filled with humor, as were the two earlier entries in this series. He is obviously very fond of his adopted State. Eddie mentions in one instance that "over a thousand endangered species live in South Florida. The Early Bird is not one of them," and in another, when about to drive after sustaining a serious head injury, and asked if he is fit to drive, he responds "I'm in better condition than most drivers in Boca."
Always a crusader and "a sucker for a good cause," Eddie promises to look into an attack on a homeless man dubbed "Weary Willie" [after the sad-faced clown of many years ago]--apparently the homeless problem in Florida just as bad as, if not worse than, any other part of the country--and uncovers several other criminal activities along the way, including political corruption, and erstwhile pain clinics, really "pill mills," apparently another blight in Florida, with millions of pills sold annually in strip malls and office parks by non-medical corporations. But the worst crime uncovered is one reminiscent of the Bernie Madoff affair [with the latter even making a cameo appearance].
Don't let the fact that Eddie is on speaking terms with a particular body part be off-putting; it's really just another aspect of this very funny book with a wonderful protagonist who has a tendency toward random philosophical musings. It is a terrific and fast read, and I look forward to the next book in the series. Parenthetically, I loved the tip of the hat to the Mystery Bookstore in Pineapple Grove as well.
The Chalk Girl
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157745, $25.95, www.penguin.com