I do not read a lot of British crime fiction. I mainly read American crime like Geroge Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Richard Price and Laura Lippman and have a soft spot for Irish crime like Ken Bruen and Adrian McKinty. I have never gotten into the likes of Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson etc. My the exception to the rule (its not really a rule) is John Harvey.
I discovered Harvey thorough a George Pelecanos recommendation and was completely hooked. He has written almost twenty novels. The majority being the Resnick series which are absolutely brilliant police procedurals (again a crime sub-genre that I’m not normally a fan of) that completely suck you in, not just to Resnick’s life but the lives of all the members of his squad. The Resnick series had pretty much finished by the time I discovered Harvey (there was a revisit a couple of years ago) which was great in a way because it allowed me to discover him gradually through his new novels (three Frank Elder books and some brilliant standalones) and slowly go back in my own time to the Resnick series (although when he wrote a new Resnick novel I had to quickly catch up!).
Harvey is one of those rare writers who just seem to get better and better. He is also the reason I discovered Peter Temple. Just as I’m not a big reader of British crime, I’m not a big reader of Australian crime. I was lucky to have lunch with John Harvey on one of his visits Down Under and we were comparing our favourite reads of the year. We both agreed that the THE POWER OF THE DOG was amazing and our best read that year but he mentioned that THE BROKE SHORE came very close. I was embarrassed not to have read any Temple (something I’m even more ashamed of now) and set out to rectify the issue. I was, of course, blown away by THE BROKEN SHORE and went on to read all the other Temple books.
I mention this because as I was reading Harvey’s new novel, GOOD BAIT, I was reminded a lot of Peter Temple and TRUTH. It is very similar in style and tone and it is not your traditional crime novel structure or pace. The actually crime of the novel is also not his primary concern. Like Temple it is all about the characters and how they cope with what is put in front of them. It is very empathetic, sometimes dark and depressing but always enthralling and captivating. John Harvey is the British Peter Temple.
I’m not going to go into a synopsis of the novel because while the story is brilliant what makes this book and John Harvey stand out is the writing and the characters. The story unfolds for the reader just as is does for the two main characters: DCI Karen Shields, Head of Homicide and DI Trevor Cordon a small town policeman; piece by piece, somewhat unrelated but as dots start to connect things begin to become clearer while other things remain elusive.
If you love crime you’ve got to read John Harvey.