Cold in Hand
John Harvey
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Cold in Hand
John Harvey
384 pages
September 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Modern-day Nottingham is rife with the ills of society, a city bedeviled by poverty and crime, infused with drugs, the black market sale of illegal weapons and increased human trafficking that have become a part of the sociological nightmare blighting cities everywhere. Most police departments realize they can do no more than put a dent in crime, taking out the worst offenders whenever possible.

Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick, nearing his thirty and retirement, is neither idealistic nor cynical, perhaps in a more contemplative frame of mind since his relationship with Lynn Kellogg, Detective Inspector of the Homicide Unit and Hostage Negotiator. Cohabitation has brought both of them a sense of contentment, sharing their daily problems and tempering the frustrations of police work.

But when Lynn is involved in a local incident, their simple routine is shattered by unexpected complications. Stepping in to stop a knife fight between two teenaged girls in a gang-infested neighborhood, Kellogg becomes a point-blank target for an assailantís bullet, an act that also takes the life of one of the girls. Thanks to her bulletproof vest, Kellogg survives the attack but is left reeling from her sudden encounter with death and the consequences of the incident.

Called in to cover the shooting, Resnickís task is to locate the murderer in a place where gangs and racial tensions prevail and crime lurks around every corner. As Harvey skillfully illustrates, there are tangential connections between one crime and another, unsuspected links that draw Kellogg and Resnick into an increasingly volatile combination of seasoned criminals, petty thieves, and the considerable threat of mob activities - in this case, the growing power of organized criminals from Eastern Europe.

Pursuing the protection of a fragile witness in a murder case, Lynn concentrates on her own work, leaving Charlie to sort through the complexities of the shooting. Even here there are shadows, interference from SOCA, the Serious and Organized Crime Agency, the author exploring the territorial battles of police agencies confronted with the larger picture. Criminals caught in broader, more significant investigations are ameliorated for the sake of the higher-profile case.

With this contemporary, sophisticated plot, Harvey keeps the reader guessing, the troubles of citizens in a city riddled with all the ills of society, the gradual undermining of families as people fall victim to an endless cycle of drugs and violence, human trafficking and gun-running. These two very sympathetic characters struggle through the unpredictability of challenging jobs, committed to work and each other in a well-written, fascinating exploration of the desperate flailings of a restive, flawed society with diminishing hopes.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2008

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