A teenage thug’s apparent suicide reveals a vicious cycle of violence: “No one does the British police procedural better” (Manchester Evening News).
Nicky Snape likes robbing old people. The fifteen-year-old snatches shirts from stores, purses from his teachers, and as much money as he can lift from his mother. But for an easy score he knows no better target than the elderly. When he sneaks into the home of Eric and Doris Netherfield, his footsteps wake the old couple. With a piece of steel railing he keeps by the bed for protection, Eric attempts to defend his home. He fails. Nicky fights back, battering them both to within an inch of their lives. Nottingham police inspector Charlie Resnick knows Nicky Snape, and doesn’t hesitate to arrest him. But what should be the end of the crime is only the beginning, as Snape’s arrest sparks a chain reaction of rape, suicide, and murder.
Harvey (Cold Light; Rough Treatment) is a hard-bitten British poet of urban angst. His latest gritty crime novel, set in a provincial English city that is clearly Nottingham, has a particularly tough theme: gay male rape. Young ne'er-do-well Nicky Snape, 15, arrested after bludgeoning an elderly couple during a robbery, mysteriously hangs himself on his first night in juvenile detention. Then seemingly conventional, soon-to-retire police inspector Bill Aston, conducting an investigation into the lad's suicide, is found brutally beaten to death. The central mystery is whether these events are connected, and Harvey's police squad is set to find out. Led by laconic Charlie Resnick, the squad is a beautifully observed bunch of men and women whose profane relationships with each other and their suspects are rendered with unerring accuracy. What makes Harvey's grim world bearable is his compassion: even Nicky's hapless mother is wretchedly human; Resnick himself is allowed a dour little romance with a young teacher; and the most intolerant and racist member of the police squad ultimately gets help from an unexpected quarter. Harvey's taut, fluent style moves easily between idle banter and electrifying violence, and only a slightly over-the-top windup is a flaw in an otherwise haunting and memorable performance. 50,000 first printing; author tour.