Body and Soul
Frank Conroy
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Buy *Body and Soul* by Frank Conroyonline

Body and Soul
Frank Conroy
Houghton Mifflin
450 pages
September 2018
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Imagine a relentless, unstoppable force, someone who thrives on murder and mayhem and doesn't even think about playing by the rules. Harvey's final Frank Elder novel places his hero in a bleak and amoral world. This is both an advantage and an obstacle as Frank once again faces Adam Keach's own particular brand of terror. Keach raped and tortured Edler's teenager daughter Catherine and is now in HMP Wakefield serving a life sentence.

Catherine, now twenty-three, struggles with post-traumatic stress. She's on a flat share in Dalton, East London, having therapy due to nights of bad dreams that have been haunting her since she was sixteen. She's just ended an affair with celebrated British artist Anthony Winter, who convinced her to pose nude for his series of provocative paintings. Ensconced in a cottage in bucolic Cornwall, Frank understands, with the clarity of hindsight and common sense, that he should leave well enough alone, "let time do its thing, allow wounds to heal." But he can't escape the fact that Winter was significantly older than Catherine and presumably more experienced and sophisticated. Katherine, in Frank's eyes, is still little more than his own child.

Hemmed in by circumstances that once seemed beyond his control, Frank grudgingly transferred from London and his job as a detective sergeant at the Met with only a few savings and a foreshortened police pension behind him. Now he's travelling back to London to visit Catherine and confront Winter at the gallery premiering his latest work (including his finished S&M portrait of Catherine). When Winter is found dead in his Kentish town studio, the two officers assigned to the case--Detective Chief Inspector Alex Hadley from the Met's Major Investigation teams and her partner, DS Chris Phillips--can't help suspecting that Frank was responsible for Winter's murder.

Simultaneously impressive and melancholy, Body and Soul is pervasive and blunt, convincingly narrated by both Frank and Catherine. The novel's determination to live exclusively on the darkest side of humanity pays dividends for the reader. Aside from flashing back to Catherine's past through the actions of Adam Keach, the novel largely concerns Frank's relentless private vendetta as he tracks down a number of Keach's former associates. Catherine, meanwhile, becomes the first of the nudes. Images in her mind keeps hooking her back: Adam Keach, the stink of rotting fish, the cry of gulls, his hands and her skin.

Hadley is concerned that there is no clear motive for Winter's murder. Could it be sex or money, someone with a grudge who is jealous of Winter's relatively newfound wealth and fame? Hadley bets on what Catherine did for Winter's life and his art, yet for much of the investigation, she bemoans her powerlessness to influence what is going on and to her inability to crack the case and solve the crime. She gets little help from Winter's ex-wife, Susannah Fielding. Susannah had barely spoken to her former husband, never mind seen him in almost 20 years.

Frank inexorably pulls on the thread of Keach's long-ago connections. More compelling is Harvey's deep understanding of the complicated relationship between Frank and Catherine. This constant blurring of voices and perceptions between father and daughter, along with Keach's obsessive actions in his quest for revenge, add to the story's irresistible momentum and fevered intensity. Part murder-mystery, part psychodrama, the novel builds to climax in which Keach, once again, becomes the agent of chaos.

Building to a heartbreaking ending, several surprises are balanced by plot contrivances, but that's par for the course for the police procedural genre. Body and Soul remains a tight, taut, beautifully written thriller that rises above type to become an intense examination of what we owe to those we love.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2019

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