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by John Harvey
William Heinemann, April 2006
368 pages
ISBN: 0434014451

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

One thing you can virtually guarantee with John Harvey is that you'll never get a bad book -- and DARKNESS AND LIGHT is no exception.

Harvey is best known for his Charlie Resnick series, set in Nottingham. That one was put out to grass some years back, although Resnick makes brief guest appearances in the new series, which stars retired detective Frank Elder.

Elder, naturally, has baggage and personal hassles to deal with, so much so that he's taken off from Nottingham and is now living in Cornwall, a long way away from ex-wife Joanne and daughter Katherine. It's only of late that he's agreed to get a landline phone in the remote cottage.

He can't stay away from the job, though. And when Joanne asks him to talk to a friend of hers, whose sister has just gone missing, he reluctantly agrees. After all, it will give him a chance to visit Katherine, with whom he has a strained relationship. His initial inquiries draw a blank, but when the sister turns up dead, Frank soon makes the links to his first murder case in Nottingham eight years ago -- one which was never solved.

If you're looking for super-duper exciting crash-bang-wallop action, you won't find it here. Harvey's book is strong on characterisation, as he portrays a man who was clearly good at his job, but is at a life crossroads both personally and professionally.

And then there's DI Maureen Prior, Elder's former sergeant, who's obviously first cousin to Stephen Booth's Diane Fry, and is as touchy-feely as a rattlesnake. But she's a good cop and I wanted to know what her big personal secret was.

The slight snag with DARKNESS AND LIGHT is that the character-driven angle does overshadow the plotting. Yes, the plot is logical, but I guarantee you will spot whodunit coming two miles off. I felt a feeling of anti-climax when the murder strand was resolved -- but was then re-engaged by Frank's latest dilemma.

And while the Elder books may not be as complex and multi-layered as those starring Resnick, it's still a damn good series to stick with.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, May 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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