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Marilyn StasioWhile the male villains are no better than thugs, Harvey shows great compassion for the women they batter; in Elder, he has given them a champion who really does feel their pain.
— The New York Times
Posted February 2, 2009
'Maddy Birch would never see thirty again. Nor forty either.' This is what she thought as she frowned into a mirror that revealed wrinkles beginning to show around her mouth and gray sneaking into her hair. The first lines of 'Ash & Bone' describe someone growing older. Sounds benign, doesn't it? Here's a woman none too pleased with the signs of aging as she approaches her 44th birthday. She's a British detective sergeant assigned to Serious and Organized Crime. Her bank account's thin and she's making payments on her flat. Maddy doesn't think that's much to show for 'half a lifetime on the force.' Readers are immediately drawn to this no-nonsense likable woman. She's devoted to her job, doesn't much care for the condescension shown females on the force, and most definitely isn't interested in suggestive leers or clumsy gropes from her fellow officers. When we first meet her she's in a minor state of shock. She had recently accompanied Detective Superintendent Mallory and young Paul Draper on a raid to capture a top criminal, James William Grant. During that foray Grant is shot and killed by Mallory who notes, 'Textbook. Head and heart.' The killing, Mallory finds, is cause for 'A wee celebration.' At this point readers are totally hooked, wondering where ace thriller writer John Harvey is going with Maddy and her response to this experience. Thus, it's quite a shocker when she is found dead early on, page 64 to be exact. Leading up to this Harvey has skillfully reintroduced retired Detective Inspector Frank Elder, who has received a disturbing telephone call from his former wife. It seems their teenage daughter, Katherine, is running amok, staying out for all hours, sometimes overnight, keeping company with a drug dealer.. Elder blames himself for Katherine's anti-social behavior, believing it to be trauma caused by her earlier kidnaping and rape - a crime he feels he could have prevented. This is remorse he can't erase even by 'the slow but steady application of alcohol to the wound, the plastering over of helplessness and guilt.' Thus, we have two parallel stories, Katherine's salvation and the murder of Maddy Birch. Elder, humane, honest, lonely, comes out of retirement to help with the investigation of Maddy's death and at the same time try to reconnect with a daughter he loves. Word master Harvey creates revelatory dialogue that tells you more about the characters than any physical or emotional description could. This author is so adroit that even silences between people speak. His story is, of course, a police procedural, but penned with realism seldom found and respect for the characters he has created. He's devised a fast moving many layered plot that totally absorbs. Suffice it to say that Elder almost meets his match in Detective Karen Shields, smart, black, great looking, and an intimidating six feet tall. Together they begin to unearth evidence that Grant's killing goes far beyond a routine police shooting and may, in fact, jeopardize the credibility of the entire unit. Harvey's first novel featuring Frank Elder, 'Flesh & Blood,' won the British Crime Writers' Association Silver Daggar Award - polish a gold trophy for 'Ash & Bone.' - Gail CookeWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 31, 2013
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