cover image Roses, Roses

Roses, Roses

Bill James. Foul Play Press, $23 (204pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04637-3

James's novels about British policeman Colin Harpur (Gospel; Astride a Grave; etc.) are as much about the failures of marriage and friendship as they are about crime. The latest--which begins with the murder of Harpur's wife, Megan, on her way home after a session with her lover in London--is one of the most powerful in this unique series. Pushed to the edge by Harpur's adulteries, his wife had taken up with one of his former colleagues, who had moved from their unnamed suburban city to London, and was planning to leave her husband and their two teenage daughters. After her death, James flashes back to Megan in London with her lover in a luxury flat loaned to him by a friend and then portrays Megan returning home on the train, aware of a man watching or stalking her, then being stabbed next to her car. Alternating chapters show Harpur struggling to help his daughters cope with their mother's death while doing his best to make sure that his immediate superior, Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles, doesn't solve the murder before he does. Iles is a splendidly complex character, called a ""feral loony"" by one of Harpur's daughters and described as a man who ""lived and lasted by venom, of course, but would show occasional links with humanity."" Harpur's affair with Iles's wife several books ago adds to the emotional mix. Harpur strains his friendship with the memorable ""grass"" Jack Lamb to find out if Megan's death was caused by her new lover's criminal connections. The story's resolution is fine, but what remains in the mind, as always, are the sharp stings of loss and betrayal. (Aug.)