Good Bait
John Harvey
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Buy *Good Bait* by John Harveyonline

Good Bait
John Harvey
Pegasus
Hardcover
384 pages
January 2013
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Reading a Harvey tale is like watching a gritty television crime drama. He combines a fast-paced, staccato plot with anguished and insecure characters and strafes it with an intimate sense of the human condition. On the gritty streets of London, DCI Karen Shields is plunged into the landscape of the battered and stabbed. This is a city where numerous shootings have only added to the appearance of drug deals gone sour.

In Good Bait, the environment is tough, the members of the London Constabulary weather-beaten and adaptive, a notion put to the test when Karen is called to an icy pond on Hampstead Heath. As the first responders gingerly break the ice in a broad circle, a young manís face floats closer to the shore, his body stripped naked with two knife wounds in his back. Just as the fresh snow flutters moth-like, Karen is already coordinating with Tasking Office and Mike Ramsden, her "bag man aide-de-camp and her sergeant at arms."

Under London's snowy grey sky, the young manís identity remains an enigma. Unbelievably for someone his age, thereís no traceable account on Facebook or other social networking sites, as though the boy had severed all traces with his past until his body surfaced on that frozen December morning. Before Karen can bring to justice those linked to the crime, the focus turns to DI Trevor Cordon in Penzance and his search for a dug-addled woman called Maxine Carlin, the mother of Letitia/Rose Carlin, who was also known as a registered heroin addict.

With Rose missing, Maxine reportedly went to London to find her but never followed through. Before long even Maxine is lost, an apparent suicide. When Carlin reads in The Cornishman that a woman was fatally injured after falling under a Tube train at Finsbury park, his first reaction is that it is none of his business, even as he becomes evermore obsessed with Letitia's smiling young face. Cordon remains haunted by opportunities not taken. There's little enough love in his life and little enough to abandon, a notion well-tested when Cordon discovers that Rose has a young child.

But life for Cordon such as it is must go on. Listing the help of his friend Jack Kiley, an ex-professional footballer who now ekes out a living as a private investigator, Cordon attempts to retrace both Maxine and Roseís final moments. In London, Karenís investigation unfolds in a middle-management haze. With questions at best half-answered and often leading into blind alleys of inquiry, Karen feels as though sheís being banged relentlessly against a brick wall. The message is clear: donít take this case too far, or suffer the consequences from people in high places.

When the body of a local drug dealer is found jammed into the lift of a high-rise off Tottenham High road, Karen is stimulated by the knowledge that South London gangs are perhaps behind the murder of the boy in the pond. When the evidence points to local criminal Martin Costello, Karenís instincts prove to be right, though sheís frustrated at not having a shred of proof. Mike Ramsden tells Karen to follow her gut after she figures out that a bent Ukrainian is somehow connected to money laundering and a human trafficking scam, which is in turn linked to Cordonís case.

Unlike the traditional missing-persons thriller, Harveyís story tunnels into London and Penzance, his tale unfolding in great bursts of activity and lots of gritty, street-wise dialog. While Good Bait is not the most sophisticated of police procedurals, the author never flinches from describing the more grisly aspects of the investigation. While Cordon faces a number of twists, we know that Karen will get to the bottom of her case, revealing police corruption, threats of violence, political agendas and a series of tough, compelling characters constantly undermined by their own emotional fragility.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2013

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