Gone to Ground

( 1 )


"Typical Harvey: thoughtful, well written, full of believable characters and satisfying twists."—The Times (London)


When police detective Will Grayson and his partner, Helen Walker, investigate the violent death of Stephen Bryan, a gay academic, their first thoughts are of an ill-judged sexual encounter or a fatal lovers’ quarrel. But they soon shift focus to the book Bryan was writing about the life and mysterious death of fifties film star Stella Leonard. While Bryan’s ...

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Gone to Ground

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"Typical Harvey: thoughtful, well written, full of believable characters and satisfying twists."—The Times (London)


When police detective Will Grayson and his partner, Helen Walker, investigate the violent death of Stephen Bryan, a gay academic, their first thoughts are of an ill-judged sexual encounter or a fatal lovers’ quarrel. But they soon shift focus to the book Bryan was writing about the life and mysterious death of fifties film star Stella Leonard. While Bryan’s sister puts herself in danger by conducting her own investigation, Grayson and Walker peel away the secrets of a family blighted by a lust for wealth and power and by its perverted sexuality.

On the heels of his critically acclaimed Frank Elder series, John Harvey delivers a page-turner both subtle and devastating.


"[A] dandy stand-alone mystery, filled with engaging characters and an intriguing, well-constructed plot."—The Kansas City Star


"Harvey keeps the devastating secret at the center of the tale well hidden until the end. Highly recommended for British mystery lovers."—Rocky Mountain News (Denver)


JOHN HARVEY is the author of the 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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed British author Harvey takes a break from his popular Charlie Resnick series (Lonely Hearts, etc.) with this well-written but unexciting police procedural. Stephen Bryan, a gay academic specializing in film studies, has been bludgeoned to death in his shower. Cambridge Det. Insp. Will Grayson and Det. Sgt. Helen Walker soon focus on Bryan's spurned lover, Mark McKusick, but the theft of one of Bryan's manuscripts, which deals with a 1950s film star whose great-niece is now one of the bad girls of British cinema, leads the detectives to wonder whether the professor's digging into the past led to his murder. While the solution is anticlimactic and the excerpts from a fictional screenplay add little to the plot or atmosphere, Grayson and Walker emerge as fully developed characters whose choice of career has taken its toll on their health and family lives. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

When academic Stephen Bryan is found dead in his bathroom, his face "pulled inside out," suspicion falls on his boyfriend, but there is no proof of guilt. So Stephen's sister conducts her own investigation, looking into the mysterious death of a forgotten film actress Stephen was researching, which leads her to into danger and horrendous family secrets. But officially handling the case-and all its attendant frustrations-are Will Grayson and Helen Walker of the Cambridge Major Investigative Team. Helen is nearly killed by a gang of young thugs, Will fixates on a mysterious industrialist hiding secrets, and the dead actress's movie seems eerily predictive of the current case. Harvey, best known and honored for his Charlie Resnick and Frank Elder series, introduces these characters to his familiar Nottingham setting. Unlike Charlie and Frank, Will is no lone investigator drowning in his musings, but a family man with attendant problems. Will and Helen make a good team, and one hopes to see more of them. Recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/1/07.]
—Roland Person

Kirkus Reviews
The triumphant creator of Charlie Resnick and Frank Elder introduces a new crime-stopping duo. DI Will Grayson and his partner DS Helen Walker, mainstays of Cambridge's Major Investigation Team, are repulsed by the brutal bashing of Stephen Bryan. The two first lean toward Bryan's rejected suitor, Mark McKusick, as the bludgeoner. Then other facts come to light, including a rash of homophobic hate-bashings within the past year; an anonymous threat warning Bryan off his latest project, a biography of '50s film star Stella Leonard; and the strong-arm tactics of real-estate developer Howard Prince, married to Stella's emotionally fragile sister. Once Stephen's sister Lesley, a BBC newscaster unhappy with the lack of police progress on her brother's case, strikes up a friendship with tabloid darling Natalie Prince, an uncontrollable relative of Stella's, Harvey cuts between Lesley's snooping and Grayson and Walker's more temperate investigation. Along the way, Walker is hospitalized after trying to break up a gang of racists; Will focuses on Howard Prince's dubious business practices; and Lesley and Natalie head for the Orkneys, where family secrets come out. Forensics will solve the Bryan murder, but it'll take more than one guilty conscience to clarify the mess Stella's made of her family's life. If anyone deserves to nudge Ian Rankin from his post as Britain's bestselling crime writer, it's Harvey (Darkness & Light, 2006, etc.). Reginald Hill explains it best: If he gets any better, the rest of us may have to kill him.
From the Publisher
"A superb mystery—excruciatingly suspenseful, rich in character and all too real in its depiction of the horrific possibilities lurking in the margins of the mundane."—The Washington Post Book World
"Harvey’s detectives . . . are the real deal—strong men who are sensitive enough to empathize with other people."—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156033374
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/20/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,267,351
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (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

Chapter 1  

Will Grayson had been awake since a little after five, the light leaking through the curtains like spoiled milk. An hour earlier, maybe more, Jake had cried out from the middle of a dream, and although Lorraine had stirred beside him, it had been Will who had pushed back the covers and barefooted into the adjoining room. The four-year-old’s pajama top was soaked through with sweat, his skin slick to the touch, breath sour on Will’s face as he held him close. A dream about wolves. Some animated film to blame, Will thought, wolves, slinky and gray, sliding down between tall silvered trees.

           “It’s all right,” Will had murmured. “It’s okay. They’re not real.”

           For a moment, the boy’s eyes seemed to focus on Will’s face, taking in the words, and Will had kissed his damp forehead and lowered him back down.

           “It’s early. Go back to sleep.”

           He stood there, watching, until he heard the boy’s breathing change.

           Nestled against the warmth of Lorraine’s back, he fell asleep again almost immediately, only to be woken when the baby began to cry and Lorraine, half-blindly, lifted her from the cot and into their bed, fingers unfastening the nightgown at her breast.

           “I’ll go down,” Will said. “Make some tea.”


           Easing back the curtains, he saw not a wolf but the blurred outline of a fox, tail up, head high, making its dainty way along the edge of open field beyond the garden end.

By the time Will had showered and shaved, made a fresh pot of tea and some toast, Lorraine, wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, hair pulled loosely back, had come downstairs.

           “She’s gone off again.”

           “And Jake?”

           “Still sleeping.”

           Will poured the tea.

           “I saw a fox,” he said.

           “The same one as before?”

           “I think so. It’s difficult to tell.”

           Lorraine nodded, absent-mindedly. “I was talking to Penny Travis. In the village. You know, she does some child-minding. I mentioned her before.”

           Will looked at her, set aside the knife.

           “She says she might have a vacancy later in the year; for Susie. Once Jake’s started school proper.”

           “We’ve been through all this,” Will said.

           “I know. But I still think . . .”

           “And I thought we’d agreed.”

           “You’d agreed.”

           Will sighed. “I think you should stay home with her a little longer, that’s all.”

           “How much longer?”

           “Longer than you did with Jake.”

           “There’s nothing wrong with Jake. Nursery’s been good for him, you’ve said so yourself.”

           “That’s not the point.”

           “Well, then, what is?”

           “I just don’t think Susie should be with somebody else, not this soon. It doesn’t seem right.”

           “Fine. You stay home with her then.”

           “How’m I supposed to do that?”

           “Take time off from your job.”

           “I can’t.”

           “Then get another job.”

           “Now you’re being stupid.”

           “Am I?”


           “Okay, then. That’s what I am.”

           Lorraine slammed the door behind her, feet heavy on the stairs. Will poured what was left of his tea down the sink. Minutes later he was in his car and driving south, the radio turned up loud, no idea what he was listening to or why. When Lorraine had first become pregnant with Jake they had decided to move out to the country—a larger house, more garden, a nicer environment in which to bring up kids. For Will it meant a longish commute, forty minutes when the traffic was with him, often more, a pain at first, but worth the stress.

Helen Walker’s blue VW was in the car park before him, but she was not at her desk. Outside, Will thought, sneaking a cigarette. He had given up himself two years before and no amount of mints could disguise the smell on her breath.

           They had worked together in the Major Investigation Team for close on three years, Helen and himself, and for much of that time they’d been based at Histon, a couple of miles north of Cambridge. The police station there was fairly recent, a brick-built, two-story building with a car park too small for its needs and a stairway that was wide enough for a half-decent game of five-a-side. Now, however, they were close to Cambridge city centre, in a building that was a testament to the ugliness of most mid-sixties architecture in general and concrete in particular.

           Will, as detective inspector, held the higher rank, but, most of the time, that wasn’t how it seemed: he and Helen were more like partners; sometimes one would lead, sometimes the other.

           “You look tired,” Helen said. She was balancing two Styrofoam cups of coffee, one on top of the other.

           “I’m fine,” Will replied.

           “Baby keeping you awake?”

           “I said, I’m fine.” Sharp as ice.

           Helen set one of the coffees on his desk and studied his face. “You and Lorraine had a row?”

           “Jesus!” Will exclaimed.

           “All right,” Helen said with a grin. “You want me to mind my own business, that it?”

           “Yeah, mind your own fucking business.”

           Helen laughed. The phone rang on Will’s desk and she picked it up. After listening for several moments, she reached for a pen and wrote a name and an address on the back of her wrist.

           “Right,” she said, putting down the phone. “You want something to take your mind off things? This might do the trick.”

Will’s first thought when he saw the man’s face: it was like a glove that had been pulled inside out.

           The upper part of the face, in particular, had been beaten almost beyond recognition.

           Blood had coagulated around the ridged base of the shower stall and patterned itself in darkening arcs upon the walls; the plug hole was blocked by what Will assumed to be tissue, hair, and skin. The shower curtain, wrenched down from the rail, had become entangled round the man’s naked body, entwined between his legs and draped across his chest like a plastic shroud. One hand cradling his sex.

           In the doorway, Helen was talking to the crime scene coordinator, while one of the SOCO team readied a video camera in the adjoining room. The photographer, who had set up his tripod close to the body, had stepped back when Will had arrived and was now waiting patiently to resume. Other officers, clad head to toe in white coveralls, gloved up, were beginning their search of the rest of the house.

           The cleaning lady, who had discovered the body when she started work that morning, was sitting inside one of the neighbour’s houses, a police officer in attendance, sipping sweet tea. It had been only her second day at this address, the first time she had used the key. The proverbial wild horses would not have dragged her back inside.

           Helen came and stood at Will’s shoulder, looking down at the body. “Lovers’ tiff?” she said.

           Will looked back at her, uncertain. “Could be,” he said.

           Uncertain or not, the words came easily to his mind: You do this and I never want to see your face again. Not ever.


It was a two-story terraced house in a road of similar houses just a short distance from the centre of the city, fronts covered in a pastel wash of varying shades, this one a paleish gray. Estate agents, Will reasoned, would describe it as a cottage, going for that homely, almost rural feel. And close enough to most of the colleges for junior lecturers to cycle in at ease, even walk if they’d a mind. Not cheap then, he thought, not that anything in Cambridge was. Not anymore.

           Inside, gentrification had taken hold: the extended kitchen-diner replete with a six-foot Smeg refrigerator and a deep white butler’s sink, units faced in brushed aluminum, a butcher’s block big enough to bone a side of beef.

           The furniture in the downstairs living room reminded Will of stuff his parents had inherited and then tossed out, all plywood arms and metal legs. Utility, is that what it had been called? Probably worth a fortune now.

           The front room upstairs had been turned into a virtual library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on three walls, one of them crowded not with books but videos and DVDs; magazines in piles on the floor—Cineaste, Film Comment, Sight and Sound. A copy of Shepperton Babylon had been left open, face down, on the arm of one chair, a young Dirk Bogarde in shiny black leather trousers and improbable black hat staring out from the cover. Perhaps the victim had been reading it when he had been disturbed; when someone had called.

           There was a flat-screen TV in one corner of the room, digibox and other accoutrements alongside. Framed film posters back down in the hall and on the stairs.

           The middle room, with a window looking out over the side passage leading toward the garden, functioned as a study. Will doubted if it was usually in as much disarray. The lower section of a tall, three-drawer filing cabinet had been pulled open and a number of files lay close by on the floor; two of the desk drawers had been upturned, their contents strewn to all corners; papers were littered across the floor.

Copyright © John Harvey, 2007

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 submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    As a well known thriller writer said of John Harvey, 'He writes the way we all wish we could.' More than true. If you haven't given yourself the pleasure of reading a Harvey book, do it now. His prose is spare, his plotting is intricately wrought and quickly paced, his characters sharply drawn, affecting. Harvey's descriptive skill captures minds as well as eyes - can you not see 'the ivory lozenge' of a doorbell? A stand alone British police procedural following his enormously successful Charlie Resnick series, Gone to Ground reunites Will Grayson and Helen Walker (who were introduced in an earlier short story ). They're at the top of Cambridge's Major Investigation Team, and have worked together for three years. Now they're faced with a particularly heinous crime - the fatal beating of Stephen Bryan. This was an act so brutal that 'the man's face...was like a glove that had been pulled inside out.' Bryan's lodging had been ransacked but what could a gay teacher have had that was worth murder? He was well thought of, apparently liked by his colleagues. When Grayson and Walker learn that Bryan has recently ended a relationship with former lover, Mark McKusick, they focus on him. A crime of jealousy and passion? However, it's not long before other events catch their eyes - recent homophobic related gang beatings, threats made to Bryan demanding that he stop working on a book he was writing about Stella Leonard, a ` 50s film star. Bryan's sister, Lesley, a radio newscaster is frustrated by what she considers to be lack of results by police so she begins an investigation of her own. Enter Howard Prince, a zealous real estate broker married to Stella's apparently unstable sister, and Natalie Prince, a relative of Stella's and a young actress who has a tendency to run riot. Together Lesley and Natalie make some astounding discoveries. However, for this reader it's not the solving of the crime that lingers but the sheer delight in Harvey's telling which, at times, borders on the poetic. He's a consummate craftsman, a topnotch storyteller. Highly recommended. - Gail Cooke

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