Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cold in Hand

For ten years, fans of John Harvey’s Charlie Resnick novels were offered a new book at a regular once-a-year pace. Then in 1998 Harvey announced, much to the dismay of that fan base, that he was done with Resnick for good. At the time, Harvey offered no hope that he would ever resume the series but in 2008 he surprised Charlie’s loyal fans with his eleventh Resnick book, Cold in Hand.

Charlie Resnick, some ten years older now, has his thirty years in with the Nottingham police and, on his bad days, the possibility of retirement often crosses his mind. Charlie is still pretty much the man he was ten years earlier, an intensely introspective guy who lives with his cats and surrounds himself with classic jazz recordings, a cynical man seldom surprised by anything that life throws at him. Charlie, however, does admit that his romantic relationship with Detective Inspector Lynn Kellogg, the much younger woman now living with him, did surprise him. When he thinks too long about it, it still does.

When DI Kellogg tries to stop two teenage girls from fighting, a young man with a gun suddenly comes at her and the girl she is pulling away from the fight. Shots are fired, the young girl is shot dead, and Kellogg - still wearing the bullet proof vest she needed on an earlier incident - is wounded. Resnick is given a prime role in the investigation and finds himself dealing with a man who claims that Lynn Kellogg saved her own life by using his daughter as a human shield, something for which, the man loudly proclaims to one and all, she will pay dearly.

Kellogg herself, when she returns to the job, is charged with solving the murder of an Eastern Europe prostitute brought into the country specifically for the sex trade. Her investigation places her into an uncomfortable conflict with one being conducted by the Serious and Organized Crime Agency and endangers the lives of her only witnesses. As the action moves between London and Nottingham, Kellogg begins to suspect that the SOCA investigator heading up that case might not be the man he pretends to be.

John Harvey writes a brilliant police procedural and Cold in Hand is no exception but, as usual, depth of characterization is the most impressive aspect of Harvey’s writing. Charlie Resnick, especially for long time followers of the series, is a fully fleshed man with all the aches and pains, both mental and physical, that come with the years. He is a thoroughly decent man who deserves someone exactly like Lynn Kellogg in his life, a woman who sees deeply into Charlie’s soul, past his rumpled appearance and physical limitations, to the goodness there. The book, too, is filled with believable secondary characters, on both sides of the law, that move the story along to its fateful ending. Despite the tough time that Charlie has in Cold in Hand, his fans will enjoy catching up with him - and will hope to see him again in a few months.

Rated at: 5.0

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