Ash & Bone: A Frank Elder Mystery

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Overview

In the depths of his Cornish hideaway, retired Detective Inspector Frank Elder’s solitary life is disturbed by a call from his ex-wife, telling him his seventeen-year-old daughter, Katherine, is running wild, unbalanced by the abduction and rape he feels he should have prevented. Meanwhile, in the heart of London, the takedown of a violent criminal goes badly, and Detective Sergeant Maddy Birch is uneasy about the reasons why, an uneasiness ...

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Ash & Bone: A Frank Elder Mystery

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Overview

In the depths of his Cornish hideaway, retired Detective Inspector Frank Elder’s solitary life is disturbed by a call from his ex-wife, telling him his seventeen-year-old daughter, Katherine, is running wild, unbalanced by the abduction and rape he feels he should have prevented. Meanwhile, in the heart of London, the takedown of a violent criminal goes badly, and Detective Sergeant Maddy Birch is uneasy about the reasons why, an uneasiness that is compounded when she starts to believe she is being stalked.
 
Maddy and Frank had a brief and clumsy encounter years before. In Ash & Bone their lives connect again when a second phone call persuades Elder out of retirement, only to find that a cold case has a devastating present-day impact. 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR ASH & BONE
 
"Harvey’s detectives . . . are the real deal—strong men who are sensitive enough to empathize with other people. Even people who happen to be women . . . In Elder, he has given them a champion who really does feel their pain."—The New York Times Book Review

"Relentlessly hard-core. And that’s a good thing."—New York Daily News

 

Marilyn Stasio
While 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
Patrick Anderson
Surprises abound, and graceful writing keeps us smiling. Ash and Bone, like everything I've read of Harvey's, is distinguished by seriousness, sophistication and stylistic elegance.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
British veteran Harvey's second novel to feature former Nottingham cop Frank Elder is flatly written and clich -driven, falling short of its predecessor, Flesh & Blood (2004), which won a CWA Silver Dagger Award. Retired to a shabby shack in Cornwall, Frank is still recovering from the breakup of his marriage and trying to forget the brutal rape of his teenage daughter a year before. Meanwhile, in London, Det. Sgt. Maddy Birch, a 44-year-old transfer from the northern city of Lincoln, isn't doing so well, either. The killing of a much-wanted villain by her armed superior has come under scrutiny, and Maddy is torn between loyalty to her colleagues and the truth. When Frank agrees (much too quickly) to help out the London police on another case, he and Maddy, with whom he once had a brief fling, are teamed up in an investigation that reopens all kinds of old wounds. Even this routine material might have worked had Harvey used any of the bleak humor and sharp characterizations of his classic Charlie Resnick series (Lonely Hearts, etc.). (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Washington Post
"Simple? Sure. The way Picasso's doodles are simple . . . Distinguished by seriousness, sophistication and stylistic elegance."
New York Daily News
"Relentlessly hard core. And that’s a good thing."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Harvey is such a good writer, too, that his style and his exquisite sense for detail carry the story."
Houston Chronicle
"Harvey imbues [his characters] with such richly rendered emotion . . . that the whole genre seems brand new."
New York Times Book Review
"Harvey’s detectives . . . are the real deal—strong men who are sensitive enough to empathize with other people."
Library Journal
Harvey's (Lonely Hearts) mystery series featuring Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick made him world famous. Now he has the difficult task of popularizing a new series without simply redoing the old. In this second novel featuring retired Nottinghamshire detective Frank Elder-the first, Flesh & Blood, won Britain's Silver Dagger Award-Elder is drawn back into the game when a former colleague is murdered. Complications arise when Elder's estranged teenage daughter, a recent kidnapping and rape victim, becomes caught up in the drug scene, and several cops appear to be on the wrong side of the law. Harvey relies on character and dialog, with a strong sense of place, to draw complex characters in complex situations. Like Ian Rankin, he displays a compassionate view of ordinary people, both criminals and police, while ensnaring the reader with tightly woven plots. The writing is so good that one doesn't notice it; there is humor and sorrow, rarely simplicity. Highly recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 8/05.]-Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156032841
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 12/4/2006
  • Series: Frank Elder Series , #2
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 386
  • Sales rank: 1,483,109
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

JOHN HARVEY is the author of ten previous Charlie Resnick novels and the Frank Elder series, and a recipient of the Silver Dagger Award, the Barry Award, and the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement, among other honors. He lives in London.

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Read an Excerpt

MADDY BIRCH WOULD NEVER SEE THIRTY AGAIN. NOR forty either. Stepping back from the mirror, she scowled at the wrinkles that were beginning to show at the edges of her mouth and the corners of her eyes; the gray infiltrating her otherwise dark brown, almost chestnut, hair. Next birthday she would be forty-four. Forty-four and a detective sergeant attached to SO7, Serious and Organized Crime. A few hundred in the bank and a mortgaged flat in the part of Upper Holloway that North London estate agents got away with calling Highgate Borders. Not a lot to show for half a lifetime on the force. Wrinkles aside.

Slipping a scarlet band from her pocket, she pulled her hair sharply back and twisted the band into place. Taking a step away, she glanced quickly down at her boots and the front of her jeans, secured the Velcro straps of her bulletproof vest, gave the ponytail a final tug, and walked back into the main room.

To accommodate all the personnel involved, the briefing had been held in the hall of an abandoned school, Detective Superintendent George Mallory, in charge of the operation, addressing the troops from the small stage on which head teachers since Victorian times had, each autumn, admonished generations of small children to plough the fields and scatter. The fields, that would be, of Green Lanes and Finsbury Park.

Wall bars, worn and filmed with gray dust, were still attached to the walls. New flip charts, freshly marked in bright colors, stood at either side of a now blank screen. Officers from the tactical firearms unit, SO19, stood in clusters of three or four, heads down, or sat at trestle tables, mostly silent, with Birch's new colleagues from Serious Crime. She had been with her particular unit three weeks and two days.

Moving alongside Birch, Paul Draper gestured toward the watch on his wrist. Ten minutes shy of five-thirty. "Waiting. Worst bloody time."

Birch nodded.

Draper was a young detective constable who'd moved down from Manchester a month before, a wife and kid and still not twenty-five; he and Birch had reported for duty at Hendon on the same day.

"Why the hell can't we get on with it?"

Birch nodded again.

The hall was thick with the smell of sweat and aftershave and the oil that clung to recently cleaned nine-millimeter Brownings, Glock semiautomatic pistols, Heckler and Koch MP5 carbines. Though she'd taken the firearms training course at Lippetts Hill, Birch herself, like roughly half the officers present, was unarmed.

"All this for one bloke," Draper said.

This time Birch didn't even bother to nod. She could sense the fear coming off Draper's body, read it in his eyes.

From his position near the door, the superintendent cast an eye across the hall, then spoke to Maurice Repton, his detective chief inspector.

Repton smiled and checked his watch. "All right, gentlemen," he said. "And ladies. Let's nail the bastard."

Outside, the light was just beginning to clear.

BIRCH FOUND HERSELF SITTING ACROSS FROM DRAPER inside the van, their knees almost touching. To her right sat an officer from SO19, ginger mustache curling around his reddish mouth; whenever she looked away, Birch could feel his eyes following her. When the van went too fast over a speed bump and he jolted against her, his hand, for an instant, rested on her thigh. "Sorry," he said and grinned.

Birch stared straight ahead and for several minutes closed her eyes, willing the image of their target to reappear as it had on the screen. James William Grant. Born Hainault, Essex, October 20, 1952. Not so far then, Birch thought, from his fifty-second birthday. Birthdays were on her mind.

Armed robbery, money laundering, drug dealing, extortion, conspiracy to murder, more than a dozen arrests and only one conviction: Grant had been a target for years. Phone taps, surveillance, the meticulous unraveling of his financial dealings, here and abroad. The closer they got, the more likely it was that Grant would catch wind and flee to where the extradition laws rendered him untouchable.

"It's time we took this one down," Mallory had said at the end of his briefing. "Way past time."

Five years before, an associate of Grant's, ambitious enough to try and freelance some Colombian cocaine conveniently mislaid between Amsterdam and the Sussex coast, had been shot dead at the traffic lights midway along Pentonville Road, smack in the middle of the London rush hour. After a trial lasting seven weeks and costing three-quarters of a million pounds, one of Grant's lieutenants had eventually been convicted of the killing, while Grant had slipped away scot-free.

"What d'you think?" Draper asked, leaning forward. "You think he'll be there? Grant?"

Birch shrugged her head.

"He fuckin' better be," the Firearms officer said, touching the barrel of his carbine much as earlier he had touched Birch's leg. "Feather in our fuckin' cap, landing a bastard like him." He grinned. "All I hope is he don't bottle out and give it up, come walking out with his hands behind his fuckin' head."

As the van veered left off Liverpool Road, someone toward the rear of the vehicle started humming tunelessly; heads turned sharply in his direction and he ceased as abruptly as he'd begun. Sweat gathered in the palms of Birch's hands.

"There pretty soon," Draper said to nobody in particular. "Got to be."

Conscious that the man next to her was staring more openly, Birch turned to face him. "What?" she said. "What?"

The man looked away.

Once, after a successful operation in Lincoln, her old beat, a good result, she and an officer who'd been eyeing her all evening had ended up with a quick grope in a doorway. His hand on her breast. What in God's name had made her think about that now?

"We're getting close," the driver said over his shoulder.

One side of York Way was derelict, half-hidden behind blackened walls and wire fencing; on the other, old warehouses and small factories were in the process of being converted into loft apartments. Underground parking, twenty-four-hour doormen, fifteen-year-old prostitutes with festering sores down their legs and arms a convenient ten-minute stroll away.

From the front the building seemed little changed, a high-arched wooden door held fast with double padlock and chain, its paintwork blistered and chipped. Small windows whose cobwebbed glass was barred across. Birch knew from the briefing that the guts of the place had already been torn out and restoration was well in hand. A light showed dimly behind one of the windows on the upper floor.

Either side of her, armed officers in black coveralls, the single word POLICE stenciled in white at the front of their vests, were moving silently into position.

No sweat in her palms now and her throat was dry.

"YOU BASTARD!" LAUGHING.

"What?"

"You know."

"No. What?"

Wary, Vicki walked over to where Grant was stretched out on the bed, cotton sheet folded down below his waist. For a man of his years, she thought, not for the first time, he was in good shape. Trim. Lithe. He worked out. And when he'd grabbed her just now, fingers tightening about her wrist, it had been like being locked into a vise.

"C'mere a minute," he said. "Come on." A smile snaking across his face. "Not gonna do anythin', am I? So soon after the last time. My age."

She knew he was lying, of course, but complied. Vicki standing there in a silver thong and a tight white T-shirt ending well above the stainless steel ring in her navel. What else was it about but this?

When she'd first met him, a month or so before, it had been at the Motor Show, Birmingham. Vicki not wearing a whole lot more than she was now, truth be told, a couple of hundred quid a day to draw attention to the virtues of a 3.2-liter direct injection diesel engine, climate control, and all-leather interior.

He'd practically bought the vehicle out from under her and later screwed her on the backseat at a rest stop off the A6. "Christen the upholstery," he'd said with a wink, tucking a couple of fifty-pound notes inside her dress. She'd balled them up and thrown them back in his face. He'd paid more attention to her after that.

"I've got this place in London," he'd said. "Why don't you come and stay for a bit."

"A bit of what?"

The first time he'd seen her naked it had stopped him in his tracks: he'd had more beautiful women before, but none with buttocks so round and tight and high.

"Jesus!" he'd said.

"What?"

"You've got a gorgeous arse."

She'd laughed. "Just don't think you're getting any of it, that's all."

"We'll see about that," he'd said.

Fingers resting lightly just below her hips, he'd planted a careful kiss in the small of her back. "Who was it?" he'd said, hands sliding down. "Pushed in his thumb and pulled out a plum? Little Jack Horner? Little Tommy Tucker?"

After that he'd taken her facedown on the polished wood floor, bruises on her knees and breasts that smelled of linseed oil.

"Will, don't," she said now, shaking herself free. "Not now. I have to go and pee."

"What's wrong with here?" Pointing at his chest.

"Over you, you mean?"

"Why not? Wouldn't be the first time."

"You're disgusting."

"You don't know the half of it." He reached for her but she skipped away.

"Don't be long," he said, leaning back against the pillows and watching her as she walked toward the door.

THERE WAS ACCESS FROM A COURTYARD AT THE REAR, stairs leading past three balconies to the upper floor. The loft apartment where Grant lived was entered through double doors, a single emergency exit leading to a fire escape at the farthest end.

Copyright © John Harvey 2005

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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