cover image PAY DAYS: A Harper & Iles Mystery

PAY DAYS: A Harper & Iles Mystery

Bill James, . . Norton, $24 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04214-6

Everything comes apart in James's (Panicking Ralph) latest entry in the British procedural series, balanced, as usual, on the policing efforts of Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles and Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur on the one hand and the criminal détente between Panicking Ralph Ember and Manse Shale on the other. James's sardonic humor is on full display as the unspoken understanding that allows Ember and Shale's criminal activities to flourish so long as niceties are observed (i.e., violence is kept to a minimum) is threatened. The murder of a small-time pusher, and the subsequent disappearance of his body, is the catalyst that sets all in motion. An ambitious chief inspector goes on the take (double pay) or, perhaps, is simply posing and trying to infiltrate (double double) the criminals. And Chief Constable Mark Lane, Harpur and Iles's ineffectual boss, decides that it's time to crack down on the crime bosses. Further, from within Ember and Shale's own organizations, ambitious lieutenants would like to rise to the top. These new tensions quickly exacerbate old ones familiar to fans of the series: the fractured working relationships of Iles and Harpur and the always fragile truce between Shales and Ember. The moral ambiguities displayed by James's characters and the tricky codes of conduct that they observe both delight and dismay, but they also ring true. Edgy, quirky prose and a fine capacity to shock and surprise will please James's many fans. (Sept. 10)