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Harvey, John - 'Darkness and Light'
Hardcover: 368 pages (Apr. 2006) Publisher: William Heinemann ISBN: 0434014451

DARKNESS AND LIGHT is the third in Harvey's latest series which features retired police inspector Frank Elder. Divorced and in an awkward relationship with his grown-up daughter he has moved away from his family in Nottingham and holed up in Cornwall.

He's only in Cornwall for a few pages when he receives a phone call from his ex-wife Joanne asking for help to track down a missing person, the sister of a friend of hers. The missing sister, Claire Meecham, is a quiet person with regular routines or so her worried sister thought. Not expecting much success, Frank agrees to help and returns to Nottingham thinking that he can at least try and patch up his relationship with daughter Katherine. Frank soon discovers that Claire has been trying Internet dating agencies, which gives him a possible lead.

Frank is also reunited with Maureen Prior, his former sergeant who helped him settle in when he moved from London to the Nottinghamshire force eight years ago. They soon form a professional relationship when Claire's body is found and the manner and appearance of her death resembles closely an unsolved murder from the beginning of Frank's Nottingham career. Frank is hired as a consultant to look into the early case, the death of Irene Fowler, whilst Maureen leads the investigation into Claire Meecham's murder.

I thoroughly enjoyed DARKNESS AND LIGHT and I was itching to get back to it at every turn. Initially disappointed that it wasn't to be set in Cornwall I enjoyed touring round Nottingham and trying to recognise landmarks from my infrequent real-life visits. Indeed Nottingham is portrayed so lovingly, warts and all, it is a character in its own right. Frank isn't flashy, he's an ordinary bloke with no real idiosyncrasies - dysfunctional family yes, but alcoholic no - and so is possibly a little bland, but it's his way with people that helps crack the case.

With a plot that keeps you guessing to the end about the identity of the killer, even if you're almost sure you know whodunit, well rounded characters and superbly well written, this is a real page-turner.

DARKNESS AND LIGHT was my introduction to John Harvey's work and it won't be the last that I'll read. Iím eager to try the legendary 'Charlie Resnick' series and for fans of Resnick, there's the tiniest of cameo appearances.

It seems from John Harvey's website that this may be the final Frank Elder book and it does seem that Elder has made a decision about his future. Nonetheless if he comes back I'll be reading it and it would be nice to see the touchy, reserved, Maureen Prior again.

Read another review of DARKNESS AND LIGHT.

Karen Meek, England
May 2006

last updated 29/09/2007 15:08