Thursday, July 09, 2015

Darkness, Darkness: Resnick's Last Case

After twelve novels (all of which I have read) and sixteen short stories (none of which I have read), Charlie Resnick has been firmly, and I assume permanently, put to pasture.  Interestingly, author John Harvey chose to send Charlie out more with a whimper than with a roar in Darkness, Darkness: Resnick’s Last Case, the novel offering the last glimpse of the jazz-loving detective whose cases many of readers have been following for more than two decades now.

Charlie is already all but retired, just marking time “in the bowels of Central Station,” as one of his colleagues puts it, when he is offered the opportunity to help out on a thirty-year-old cold case.  Thirty years earlier, during a violent coal miners’ strike, a young woman who considered her husband to be a strikebreaking scab disappeared without a trace.  She was there one day, gone the next.  Because none of the policemen working the strike, including Charlie, could afford the extra time it would take to look into her disappearance, it was easier for the police to assume that the woman had run off to start a new life of her own – far away from the miners’ strike and her scab of a husband. Now a skeleton has been found in the back garden of a home in Bledwell Vale, a little coal-mining village that played a prominent role in the 1984 miner’s strike – and Charlie almost immediately thinks of Jenny Hardwick, the woman who disappeared all those years ago.

Assigned to head up the investigation, Catherine Njoroge, a thirty-three-year-old detective inspector (Kenyan by birth) senses that she has been handed a political hot potato, one that could effectively end her career if she blows it.  But she also knows that Charlie Resnick was on the ground in Bledwell Vale thirty years ago and that he already knows all the players – if they are still alive, and if they can be found.  Given the authority to recruit her own team, Catherine makes sure that Charlie is part of it.

John Harvey
Darkness, Darkness is a satisfying mystery, one that offers plenty of false leads and theories for police and readers alike to ponder, but it will be primarily remembered as Charlie Resnick’s last hurrah.  Harvey makes it clear that the world is starting to pass Charlie by a bit, that it is moving a little too quickly for him these days, and that he knows it.  Already, Charlie has become more observer than participant.  He know longer cares about promotions or raises; he is just taking life one day at a time while watching the world he was once so familiar with change and disappear forever.  John Harvey, a man in his own eighth decade, beautifully and accurately portrays a mindset common to so many as they approach the end of their working days.  I will miss Charlie Resnick, and I hope he spends his days listening to his hundreds of jazz recordings, drinking the good stuff, and doing whatever else pleases him from here on out.

Thank you, John Harvey, for creating one of my favorite fictional characters and a series of which I never tired.  Charlie was a good one. 

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