cover image Kill Me

Kill Me

Bill James. W. W. Norton & Company, $22.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04920-6

The last six books in James's Harpur & Iles series about a nameless city near London have been like one of those gigantic party sandwiches--they're stuffed with prime ingredients but it's hard to tell where one slice ends and another begins. James still offers a lot of nourishment here, especially for longtime fans, but it's beginning to feel as though we're nearing the end of the loaf. Undercover cop Naomi Anstruther survives a shoot-out at a posh London restaurant when a drug operation goes awry, but ex-boyfriend Donald McWater and new flame Lyndon Evans die. As drug dealers fall in and out and police officers appear to bend or break under pressure, Naomi teams up with a young woman friend, Esm , in a personal quest to avenge the deaths of Donald and Lyndon. Unfortunately, characters who in the past have made us hoot with laughter now mostly grate and beg to be skipped over: the antics of Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur have become less appealing; the lunatic unpredictability of his sleek boss, Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles, has become, well, predictable. James is too gifted a writer to give up without a fight, and he does provide some lovely moments of Ilesian rancor. Also, a nasty piece of work, a police psychiatrist named Rockmain--introduced in Eton Crop--resurfaces with a hilariously kinky request that explains the title. But new readers eager to find out why the Harpur & Iles books have received so much praise would do better to start at the beginning, with You'd Better Believe It, and work their way through to Roses, Roses. (May)