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The Girl with the Long Back: A Harpur & Iles Mystery (Harpur & Iles Mysteries) Hardcover – March 17, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Desmond Iles is in trouble, and that's enough to give a new jolt of energy to James's long-running series (Naked at the Window, etc.) about the dapper, devious, demented Assistant Chief Constable of an unnamed British Midlands city and his colleague and primary antagonist, Chief of Detectives Colin Harpur. Here Iles faces two challenges: a tough new chief constable may replace his well-meaning but clueless boss Chief Constable Mark Lane and crush Iles like a bug; and one of the city's three top drug magnates is rumored to want Iles dead. Harpur disapproves of his superior's style of policing, and despite Iles's distaste for using undercover agents (who have a bad habit of being killed) Harpur plants a sharp young female detective inside the smallest of the three drug operations. The titular young woman with the shapely rear is the 18-year-old daughter of a recently deceased "grass," or informer. Fascinated by teenage girls, Iles naturally finds himself attracted to he-until she begins to respond favorably to his advances. Once again, it's James's darkly ironic writing that makes this series worth the padding and occasional plodding: "It dismayed Harpur to think of [Iles] crushed and humbled, though God knew such a malevolent, pirouetting, egomaniac vandal half deserved it, or a quarter. Diminish Iles and you could undermine life's whole fragile scheme, as in the elimination of a species or act of genocide."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The latest entry in the long-running police procedural series starring battling London cops Iles and Harpur is about as bleak and uncomfortable as a procedural can get, which is entirely in keeping with the way James' novels upend the conventional procedural theme of cops bringing order out of criminal chaos. In the Iles-Harpur books, the criminals have nothing on the cops when it comes to chaos and corruption. Assistant Chief Iles and his subordinate, Detective Chief Harpur, have worked for and against each other over the span of 20 books, their relationship as embittering as a bad marriage. This time out, Harpur sees Iles slipping, both politically and on the streets, as the uneasy peace Iles has crafted among the drug lords disintegrates into a full-scale turf war. Great information on the how-to's of undercover police work gives this novel its pulse, while the shifting points of view, from cop to drug lord, heighten tension. As gritty as it gets. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Harpur, Iles, and the surviving drug lords face off in a multi-sided game. Every man, even within the police department, is pursuing different objectives--yet no one really wants an end to the peace on the streets that Iles's rules have created.
Author Bill James continues his fascinating exploration of law and disorder in the world of drugs. Harpur, co-protagonist along with druglord Ralph Ember, is always claiming that there are no gray areas, that good police work will be done and that the police are investigating all of the murders, but everyone knows that Harpur his hiding secrets, and that Iles holds even more secrets and far more gray areas within himself. Panicking Ralph Ember continues as a sympathetic character in his criminal and blustering way.
In the world of Harpur and Iles, no one ever answers questions, no one comes out and says what they are thinking, and no one directly admits the truth that they all recognize but cannot speak out loud. The line between policeman and criminal is thin indeed, and Harpur's attempts to hold onto his sanity by imagining the potential that Chief Mark Lane might someday exercise his nominal authority over Iles are both sympathetic and reprehensible.
Harpur & Iles Mysteries are strong and thoughtful accounts of the real world--where the police might just be more dangerous than the criminals they hunt and sometimes cooperate with, where informants are protected at all costs, and where the gray area is large indeed.
The two leading drug lords Ralph Ember and Mansel Shade have heard the word of Lane leaving leading to reduced negotiability room for Iles and each one knows they must take action before the other has the edge. Newcomer Ferdinand Dubal sees this as an opening for him to carve out a major piece of the action. The violence explodes when he executes two of Dubal's thugs and a police informant is run over. Iles knows he must broker a new peace, but the brass wants numbers not tranquility.
Talk about refreshing a long running series! Bill James returns with an entertaining economics of illegal drugs tale that will leave the audience shaking their heads wondering why bother with the drug wars. Iles is at his best trying to defuse a situation that is getting worse as three contenders battle for the heavyweight drug lord while his employers complicate matters with undercover operations. THE GIRL WITH THE LONG BACK is a delightful British police procedural with quite a twist that fans of Mr. James will fully appreciate.