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by John Harvey
William Heinemann, April 2005
400 pages
ISBN: 0434012246

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Readers who enjoyed FLESH AND BLOOD, the 2004 CWA Silver Dagger Award winner which featured retired policeman Frank Elder, will not be disappointed in ASH AND BONE, the next adventure for the former Detective Inspector.

Detective Sergeant Maddy Birch, attached to Serious and Organised Crime, is in at the kill, quite literally, when a large team takes out an important criminal. The police team is armed -- as is the crook -- and a young constable, newly arrived in London, is shot and killed, as is the subject of the operation.

Maddy is interrogated in a subsequent enquiry. She is also told there is a likelihood she may be reinterviewed by the investigative team. Superintendent Mallory, he who shot the fatal bullet, is intent that Maddy saw a completely correct operation, despite the fatalities.

Frank Elder hears distressing news of the death of a former colleague. Reluctantly he is drawn into the investigation but he has issues in his family life. His daughter Katherine, a kidnap and rape victim a year previously, is now 17 and running wild. Elder's ex-wife begs his help for a problem that is even more difficult for him to resolve than the official murder investigation.

Harvey always seeks to inject a degree of realism into his work. It is unfortunate that his plots mirror real life to the extent that the corruption in the one is also present in the other. He depicts racism, sexism, ageism and whatever other 'isms' take his fancy -- or earn his censure. He weaves an excellent plot based on the two prongs of the investigative dilemma in which he finds himself. The family problems are dealt with sensitively while the hard work of detection is led down various paths -- not excluding some false roads. Those fans of Charlie Resnick will no doubt be pleased to see him make rather longer appearances in this narrative than in FLESH AND BLOOD.

Crime, of course, will never end so no doubt there are more baffling adventures in store for both Frank and Charlie in times to come. Katherine and her mother will probably both continue to strew difficulties in Elder's way, to the entertainment of the crime fiction audience. So long as Harvey never loses the deft touch he has already displayed, we are in for a sanguine future.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, April 2005

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