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Wolves of Memory: A Harpur & Iles Mystery (Harpur & Iles Mysteries) Hardcover – July 17, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
Book 22 of 27 in the Harpur & Iles Mystery Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starting a new Harpur & Iles mystery these days is like having lunch with a couple of smart and sardonic friends who don't quite get along. Over drinks, Asst. Chief Constable Desmond Iles of an unnamed English city"a vain and fascinatingly immoral man who has been passed over but never fired because of a series of sexual misadventures"will toss out comments that show how aware he is of the irony. At the start of their latest outing (after 2005's Easy Streets), Iles explains why he thinks of himself as Dr. Frankenstein: "the good, young, idealistic man of science who yearned to produce new life by his own methods." Colin Harpur, as detective chief superintendent the man concerned with both controlling Iles and keeping crime in check, knows exactly how to handle such remarks, and both are soon deeply involved in the job of providing new lives for the family of a high-level informant hiding in their city after a large robbery goes bad. With Iles at his most dangerous and a truly frightening London crime mob seeking revenge, no wonder Colin is a bit nervous at lunch. (July)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* James is a grand-master crime writer and deserves high kudos for his Harpur & Iles series, which stands, with Ian Rankin's Rebus series and John Harvey's Charlie Resnick novels, at the very apex of the British police-procedural mountain. Filled with savagely biting humor, caustic repartee, and an unsettling sense of foreboding, James' latest entry will have readers shivering with horror while simultaneously laughing like loons at the spiteful verbal jousting between tastefully garbed, acid-tongued ACC Desmond Iles and his Oxfam-suited, insult-hurling sidekick, Colin Harpur. The story is slight--it's James' brilliant phrasing, pacing, and plotting and his bizarre characters that set this book apart. Master criminal Ian Ballion has committed the creme de la crime by grassing on his partners, becoming what's known in policing terms as a Covert Human Intelligence Source. To protect Ballion from violent retribution--he has, after all, finked on members of London's top organized-crime family--he and his family are being "clandestinely resettled" on Harpur and Iles' patch. New identities and a new life don't, however, remove the threat of retribution, and it's Harpur and Iles' job to make sure the family stays safe. As Harpur and Iles trade insults as nasty as pepper spray, the hint of menace grows into a high velocity, kick-in-the-teeth ending that reconfirms the exceedingly fine line between good and evil. Emily Melton
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Harpur & Iles Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (July 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061888
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,638,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Nobody much likes informants. Other criminals hate them--indeed, their only perscription is death. While the police rely on informants for a huge share of their convictions, even they don't really like them. Still, when a young criminal decides to protect himself by informing on the car robbery he's involved in, and manages to put a long-sought criminal behind bars, he and his family are given new identities and whisked away to the not-so-tender mercies of Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles and Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur. With a police psychologist to help them overcome their identity issues, Harpur and Iles are to provide safety and any other needed help.

Transforming from respected thief Ian Ballion to salesman Robert Templeton doesn't sound difficult. But Ian/Robert finds it horribly painful. He never meant for his informing to result in arrests--he'd merely intended to break up a robbery plan that was clearly doomed without having to actually go back on his agreement to participate in it. He continually rehearses possible approaches to the mob boss whose son is now in jail as a result of Ian/Robert's testimony. He knows the mob is not forgiving of informants, but he still fantasizes about being welcomed back into their arms, his mistakes forgiven, even appreciated.

ACC Iles and DCS Harpur recognize that the Ian memories will cause problems--will, in fact, be the critical issue in the transformation of Ian/Robert's identity. Yet their own ability to work together and to be effective in this case is hampered by Iles's continued anger at Harpur for a long-ago affair between Harpur and Iles's wife, and by Iles's attraction to Ian/Robert's wife (now Jane).
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Format: Hardcover
(4.5 stars) The London police world of Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles and Deputy Constable Colin Harpur is in constant turmoil, and not just because of the job. Des Iles is a borderline psychotic, a man who twists the law, ignores it, or imposes his own law and punishment without batting an eyelash. Harpur, the single father of two adolescent children, is both his assistant and his curse, since Harpur once had an affair with Iles's wife, and Iles, a man described as "one of the world's routine cruelties," has never let him or anyone else forget it.

Harpur and Iles have been assigned to provide protection and new identities for Ian Ballion, his wife, and two children, after a planned robbery of cash-in-transit from Africa to England goes awry. Ballion, scheduled to participate in the robbery, had "grassed," wanting the police to intercept the cash before the robbers reached it, thereby avoiding violence. The police, however, reneged, grabbing not only the cash but also the potential robbers, arresting all but Ballion. The ringleader for this job, the son of London's biggest crime lord, has received a long jail sentence, and the lives of Ballion and his family are threatened.

Believing that the Ballions can become "unstuck from yesterday" by creating new memories, which will push old memories out of their heads, a police psychologist conducts classes in which they practice their new name (Templedon) and learn to become wholly new people. In the meantime, Ian Ballion longs to return to his "family" in the criminal underworld, finding it preferable to being a police "grass," his wife hates Iles's leering advances, and his children arouse suspicion by constantly repeating their new names and prepared stories.
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Format: Hardcover
If you are already familiar with the Iles-Harpur mysteries, the quirky Bill James' characters will already be old friends. For this neophyte, however, these eccentrics, Assistant Constable Desmond Iles and Deputy Constable Colin Harpur were quite a shock, their quick repartee setting the tone for a very unusual approach to the police procedural. Harpur is the most accessible, a widowed father of two adolescent daughters who is dedicated to his work in the department. Desmond Iles is a bird of quite another feather, groomed to the nines for every occasion, waxing lyrical about his responsibility in settling a family into a new identity one moment and raving about his colleagues' betrayal the next. Iles thinks of himself as Dr. Frankenstein: "the good, young, idealistic man of science who yearned to produce new life by his own methods."

The family in question, newly christened the Templedon's, is still in the transitional phase from old to new lives. Robert Templedon, in his former incarnation, was a successful professional thief who found himself in an untenable situation: a perfectly planned heist guaranteed to fail. He warns the police, who make certain promises they fail to keep. Wanting peace and security for his family, Robert is still drawn to the rush of the criminal life, plagued by the "wolves of memory", although a psychologist has been assigned to "hunt down and slaughter those wolves in Templedon, Jane and the children, or they would pack-run and fang-destroy the present fine future." One foot in the past and the other in a new direction, Templedon worries that he is in the middle of Iles' ongoing drama, questioning the authorities' priorities. He quickly learns that criminals have no monopoly on chaos.
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