For years Colin Harpur's dubious boss, Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles, ran an 'arrangement' with Mansel Shale and Panicking Ralph Ember, owner of the Monty Club: Iles would protect their drug businesses if they ensured peace on the streets.
But when a small-time crook's house is firebombed and he and his daughter are both killed the pact is knocked sideways and gang war erupts. With the relaxation of drugs law legislation, Shale and Ember have serious competition. Their profits slide and an all-out battle for survival begins.
'Most other British Police writers are foam rubber truncheons to James' iron riot baton' Time Out
An ongoing gentleman's war between cops and local drug dealers takes a deadly turn when someone firebombs the house of a smalltime dealer in James's stellar new Harpur and Iles mystery (Panicking Ralph, etc.). Is it one of the resident drug magnates, perhaps Panicking Ralph Ember or Mansel Shale, looking to take over complete control? Or are outside forces moving in again from London or elsewhere? As in an uneasy marriage, Harpur superintendent of detectives in an unnamed British city puts up with the vanity, jealousy and questionable moral behavior of his superior, assistant chief constable Iles. The dialogue between the two sizzles like small-scale lightning. "I see you as like General de Gaulle, sir you know, waiting at Colombey les Deux Eglises for the call to put things right," Harpur replies when Iles asks him several deaths later if he's still on his side. James's loyal band of readers should appreciate the acid rain of his irony.