Monday, August 07, 2006

Death, sex, sandwiches

John Harvey's Resnick novels had proper characters, convincing and involving police-procedure plots, and an acute sense of place. They had, in general, good clean prose. (True, the first page of Rough Treatment has a fat man move with surprising lightness, but what else is a plus-sized burglar to do?) For Nottingham readers, however, they had one other decisive virtue: cafe recommendations. In almost every novel our finicky Polish detective would disappear into some little place in the inner city or the Victoria Centre market. Many of them proved to exist and to be as good as billed.

I've just had my first encounter with the new Harvey series character, Frank Elder -- his second appearance, Ash and Bone. And I must say I was worried. He conducts many of his meetings in Starbucks. But we are saved. There is a cameo appearance for Resnick, with this outcome:

The cafe was French, a small patesserie set back from the main road that ran immediately south from the station. There were a few tables on the pavement, maybe a half-dozen more inside. Bread, criossants, baguettes and a gleaming espresso machine. Two women of a certain age, smartly dressed, sat near the rear window drinking coffee; a silver-haired man, camel coat folded over the back of his chair, was reading Le Monde and eating a croque-monsieur. Elder, who had used St Pancras enough over the years, had no idea it was there...

'How did you know about this?' Elder said, looking round.

'Charlie told me about it.'

I think I know where he's thinking of, and I haven't gone in, and I will.

[Ash and Bone, John Harvey, London, 2005. More thrillerish than the Resnicks -- that's the way the market's going, apparently -- with what seems like a greater number of splashy plots, and more sex. But that could be my faulty memory. The structure resists tidiness nicely, and the social set-up feels more solid and plausible than any policeman-out-of-retirement novel has a right to. I'll be reading the others.]

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