Monday, June 28, 2010

Far Cry

It is often said there is no greater pain than that stemming from the loss of a child. When such a loss is compounded by the uncertainty of that child’s fate, the emotional pain suffered by those left behind is so great that their own survival is threatened. Marriages often fail, emotional breakdowns are common, and some parents, believing there is no longer anything to live for, take their own lives. This is the territory visited in Far Cry, John Harvey’s latest story featuring DI Will Grayson and his sometime partner, DS Helen Walker.

Detective Grayson is not happy to hear that Mitchell Roberts, a creepy pedophile he helped bring to justice, is being given an early release from prison. Grayson becomes so obsessive about his determination to protect his community from Roberts that he is willing to place his own future in jeopardy in order to keep Roberts from offending again. Despite his borderline tactics, including public humiliation, harassment, and physical contact, Grayson soon learns, however, that Mitchell Roberts will not be intimidated so easily. But when a young girl goes missing, and Grayson is put in charge of the investigation, he knows exactly where he wants to start.

It is 1995. Simon and Ruth Pierce, off on a mini-vacation to France after having reluctantly agreed to let their daughter accompany another family on holiday to Cornwall, receive a phone call telling them that she has gone missing there on a freakishly foggy evening. The Pierces will never see their daughter alive again.

Flash forward to the present. The Pierce marriage has not survived the tragedy of Heather’s death but Ruth is remarried and she and her second husband are raising their own young daughter, Beatrice. Simon, as far as Ruth knows, lives alone and has managed to piece together a new life for himself, however lonely that life might be. Astonishingly, Beatrice has now gone missing and Detective Grayson wonders what the odds against one woman losing both of her daughters to human predators, more than a decade apart, must be.

Far Cry is a nicely crafted police procedural but its real strength springs from the characters with which John Harvey has peopled his story. Harvey’s two investigators are not typical of popular detective fiction and, in fact, seem to share roles exactly opposite what most readers by now will have come to expect from the genre. Will Grayson has a good marriage and he looks forward to returning to his two children and their mother at the end of the workday. Helen Walker, on the other hand, plays the role of the loner prone to too much drinking and shaky decisions regarding her choice of sexual partners. Helen’s willingness to get involved with married men and to enjoy the occasional one - night stand leaves Will cold and he worries about her.

Ruth Pierce is a well developed character whose struggle to maintain her sanity can be disturbing to watch. She is a woman with secrets, particularly the fact that she often sees and speaks with the spirit of her oldest daughter. Ruth believes that neither of her husbands can possibly feel the loss of her children as deeply as she does and she keeps her emotional life largely hidden from them. Already struggling to maintain the semblance of a normal life, the loss of her second daughter moves her dangerously close to a mental state from which she might never recover.

Far Cry will naturally appeal to fans of John Harvey’s Charlie Resnick series but, because of the sensitive way it explores the nature of loss, it will work equally well for readers with little previous exposure to detective fiction.

Rated at: 5.0

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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