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Acclaimed British author Harvey takes a break from his popular Charlie Resnick series (Lonely Hearts, etc.) with this well-written but unexciting police procedural. Stephen Bryan, a gay academic specializing in film studies, has been bludgeoned to death in his shower. Cambridge Det. Insp. Will Grayson and Det. Sgt. Helen Walker soon focus on Bryan's spurned lover, Mark McKusick, but the theft of one of Bryan's manuscripts, which deals with a 1950s film star whose great-niece is now one of the bad girls of British cinema, leads the detectives to wonder whether the professor's digging into the past led to his murder. While the solution is anticlimactic and the excerpts from a fictional screenplay add little to the plot or atmosphere, Grayson and Walker emerge as fully developed characters whose choice of career has taken its toll on their health and family lives. (Feb.)
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*Starred Review* Along with his Frank Elder series, the successor to the now-classic Charlie Resnick novels, Harvey writes the occasional stand-alone. This one, set, like both of his series, in Nottingham, moves in a new direction for the multitalented author, whose usual milieu is the mean streets of the inner city, where poverty and racism breed crime. Here, on the other hand, he takes us behind the closed doors of the powerful, where closeted secrets rattle their chains until violence erupts. Two stories come together as police detectives Will Grayson and Helen Walker investigate the bludgeoning death of a gay film historian. Was it a crime of passion, or did the scholar’s current project, a biography of 1950s actress Stella Leonard, whose death mirrored the demise of the character she played in a celebrated film noir, somehow move the killer to action? The investigation proceeds, in typically detailed fashion, with the detectives fighting their way out of seeming dead ends while dealing with multiple personal issues; but this time the story has a new level, as Harvey juxtaposes flashbacks to the actress’ life and snippets from the script of her classic film. By doing so, that sense of inevitability, which is at the heart of film noir, re-creates itself offscreen, producing a frisson that drives the action, with past and present feeding off one another much in the manner of Ross Macdonald. More successfully, perhaps, than any other writer of a successful mystery series, Harvey continues to reinvent himself in novel after novel. --Bill OttSee all Editorial Reviews
A new series for John Harvey. Passages of this book are like virtuoso music - you it's played by a master. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Magpie
Well written, good plot - I enjoyed it but was not blown away. The best part is the writing, the story flows beautifully. Read morePublished on April 28, 2012 by Harley
It's of course a matter of taste - if you like gritty, minimalist crime fiction in the Yankee mode, then you may well enjoy its relocation to London by Mr. Harvey. Read morePublished on March 31, 2010