cover image Take


Bill James. W. W. Norton & Company, $20 (239pp) ISBN 978-0-88150-294-7

Chance matters. So do stupidity, vanity, adultery and treachery. All are explored in this standout British thriller that traces a crime from both the cops' and robbers' angles. In the wonderfully real, amoral urban world of Detective Colin Harpur, last seen in Come Clean , blunders on both sides abound. Supercautious Ron (Planner) Preston assembles a gang for a raid on a payroll van. He considers calling the heist off after hearing a tip that the van's guard has been increased, but then a young actress in an amateur production that also includes his wife makes him feel young--and foolish--again. The police deploy an ambush team, but in the wrong place; among their members is a bent cop who moonlights as a gourmet chef specializing in veal and extortion. On the cops' team is sharpshooter Robert Cotton, with whose wife Harpur has been sleeping and whom wary Harpur thinks he has heard mutter, ``One flew over the cuckold's nest.'' The suspense builds to an explosive climax that a domineering assistant chief constable, a cuckold himself, fails to head off. This is the sixth in the series by pseudonymous James who also writes as David Craig. (May)