cover image Still Waters

Still Waters

John Harvey. Henry Holt & Company, $23 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4149-1

Harvey's books about British Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick, set in a powerfully evoked provincial city, have a great deal going for them: authentic police detail, a touch of noir romance, a strong feel for working-class angst. What this one lacks, particularly in contrast with some of its predecessors (Easy Meat, etc.), is a strongly focused plot. There is a rather elusive case of art theft, and an attempt to trap a crooked middleman; the bodies of murdered young women are found in a canal, possibly the work of a serial killer; and there is one particular murder, that of Jane, a friend of Charlie's lover whose husband beats her. Added to all this is the rise of an ambitious female colleague of Charlie's to a job he might have liked, as well as some episodes involving a winsome nun. As always, Harvey's writing is fast and flavorful, and his sense of contemporary mores is keen: a seminar on women and violence run by Jane is acutely observed, with many hip American references. But there is simply too much going on, of varying interest to the reader, and too many loose ends left untied at the end, for this to be as satisfactory a Harvey experience as usual. (Oct.) FYI: In October, the first two Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts and Rough Treatment, and last year's Easy Meat will be released in paperback by Owl.