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Other titles in the Frank Elder Mysteries series:
Darkness and Light: A Frank Elder Mystery (Frank Elder Mysteries)by John Harvey
Synopses & Reviews
Former cop Frank Elder is once more drawn out of retirement by a phone call from his ex-wife, this time asking him to look into the disappearance of her friend Jennie's older, widowed sister Claire in Nottingham. Elder reluctantly agrees to return to the city where his family disintegrated.
Elder soon uncovers sexual secrets of Claire's that take Jennie by surprise. But when Claire is found dead at home — unmarked and carefully dressed — it is Elder who is surprised by the similarities to an old case. To solve this riddle, Elder will have to repartner with another person from his past, Detective Inspector Maureen Prior, and delve into several suspects' own traumatic histories.
In a case in which neither memories, confessions, nor instincts can be trusted, Elder struggles with the weight of the past and Harvey delivers another psychologically trenchant page-turner.
"In Harvey's engaging third British procedural to feature retired policeman Frank Elder (after 2005's Ash and Bone), Elder grudgingly agrees to try to find Claire Meecham, the older, widowed sister of a friend of his ex-wife's. While poking through the missing woman's Nottingham bungalow, Elder finds nothing untoward other than evidence that Claire was not quite so uninterested in sex, and possible new relationships, as her younger sister believed. Soon after, Elder is surprised when Claire turns up in her home dead, looking at peace, carefully dressed and laid out in the manner of a woman who met a similar fate years earlier — and whose killer was never caught. Elder's probe of this murder leads him down several blind alleys even as it forces him to re-examine uncomfortable aspects of his own past. Fans of PBS's Mystery will find Harvey's novel, with its scattering of contemporary English slang, a genial read. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"John Harvey and Peter Robinson are two of today's better British crime novelists, and their work is in some ways similar. Each has written more than 15 novels and won more than his share of prizes and acclaim. Each writes about a formidable detective inspector — Harvey's Frank Elder and Robinson's Alan Banks — who operates outside London: Nottingham and Leeds, in these stories. Each man enjoys a... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) drink and a pretty face but struggles to deal with an assortment of ex-wives, ex-lovers and troubled children. In their new novels, each detective is investigating a present-day murder that is connected to murders in the past. From that point, however, the books differ greatly. A few years ago, Harvey ended his much-admired Charlie Resnick series and began the one featuring the gravely named Frank Elder. As 'Darkness & Light' begins, Elder has retired to a solitary life in Cornwall. A call from his ex-wife, however, takes him back to Nottingham to investigate the disappearance of a dowdy 55-year-old widow named Claire Meecham. Soon enough, Elder learns that Claire, aided by the Internet, has been living on the wild side. One of the men in her life boasts that a bit of S&M brought out the devil in her. When Claire turns up dead, Elder starts talking to partners she'd met on the Internet and elsewhere: a mild-mannered teacher, an arrogant art scholar, a bartender-turned-doctor. Complicating the investigation, the manner of her death resembles another middle-aged woman's death eight years earlier. Even as Elder interviews these men, he is trying to re-establish communication with his college-age daughter, whose abduction and rape a few years earlier he thinks he should have prevented. He's also wondering if he should have forgiven his ex-wife for the affair that caused him to end their marriage. Both challenges, personal and professional, are credibly resolved. The bonus, in this well-crafted police procedural, is the occasional elegance of Harvey's writing. We meet an aging prostitute, her 'lipstick bravely rather than wisely applied.' We're told that a young sex-crimes investigator, shaken by the horrors he sees daily, upon arriving home each night 'would go into the twins' bedroom and stand beside their beds, watching them sleeping, five-year-old twin boys.' Or this, as Elder walks along a canal: 'Near the edge of the marina, he stopped to watch four ducklings, the size of small fists, traversing the water in their mother's uneven wake.' I suspect I'll remember these four fist-size ducklings longer than anything else in either of these novels. Robinson's 'Piece of My Heart' is in some ways a more ambitious novel. His plot spins off two well-known rock-and-roll tragedies of the 1960s: a fatal stabbing at a huge, outdoor festival and the mysterious drowning of a rock star in a swimming pool. First off, near Leeds in 2005, a rock journalist, researching a late-'60s band called the Mad Hatters, is murdered. Then we begin a second narrative, starting in 1969, at a concert that featured the Mad Hatters along with superstars Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin. A young woman was stabbed to death in the woods nearby. Alan Banks investigates the present-day crime, and, in alternating chapters, a gruff detective inspector named Stanley Chadwick investigates the rock concert murder. The dead girl was a cousin of one of the Hatters, who invited her backstage during the concert, and suspicion focused on members of the group. Less than a year later, one of the Hatters drowned in the pool on a young peer's estate. A hundred pages into the novel, it is clear to the semi-alert reader that there is a direct link between the 1969 and 2005 murders. Banks in time realizes this and begins to interview surviving Hatters, one of whom can barely function because of too many LSD trips. Robinson admires some of the '60s music he describes, but apparently not the people who made it. Almost everyone on the rock scene is scruffy, arrogant, drugged-out and dishonest. The men call everyone 'man,' women are 'birds,' and the police are 'fuzz' and 'pigs.' The Hatters are shallow, spoiled fellows 'in their bell-bottoms and floppy hats (who) manage to sound pretentious and innocent at the same time as they spoke about 'peace and love, man.'' There's a lot of talk about the Manson family murders — one of the Hatters admires Manson — and about the Rolling Stones' fiasco at Altamont. It's a jaundiced portrait of the rock scene, spiced with bits of real-world gossip: Flash — Keith Richards did drugs! The crucial difference between these two novels is that Harvey takes a relatively simple plot and explores it with a good deal of subtlety and depth, and with a sharp eye for character. Robinson's book, by contrast, packs too much in. As two full-length murder investigations unfold, the reader is overwhelmed with facts, clues, characters and rock trivia. The ending of 'Piece of My Heart' is spectacular but not believable. Robinson's novel is shorter than Harvey's but seems longer. I give him credit for an ambitious concept — two related, past-and-present murders, plus a look at '60s rock-world decadence — but less would have been more." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Harvey writes superbly about the startings and stoppings that define human relationships....Harvey belongs on the short list of every reader interested in the demilitarized zone where crime fiction and literature meet." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Yes, Charlie Resnick makes a cameo appearance, but Frank...is surely developing his own fan base and giving both Charlie and John Rebus a run for their money." Kirkus Reviews
"What had begun as a deceptively simple disappearance turns into a complex story of psychological motivation and hatred. Devotees of British police procedurals will demand this." Library Journal
About the Author
John Harvey is the author of the richly praised Charlie Resnick novels, the first of which, Lonely Hearts, was named by The Times (London) as one of the 100 Best Crime Novels of the Century. His novels featuring Frank Elder include Flesh and Blood, which won the British Crime Writers' Association Silver Dagger Award and a 2005 Barry Award, and Ash and Bone. Harvey lives in Great Britain.
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