cover image Club


Bill James. Foul Play Press, $20 (223pp) ISBN 978-0-88150-331-9

The death of a criminal ripples through lives on both sides of the law in this nervy, understated masterpiece of a procedural that only nominally stars British copper Colin Harpur. Suspects in the fatal bludgeoning of lowlife Ian Aston include his criminal pals--and Harpur's superior officer Desmond Iles, whose wife, Sarah, was having an unwise affair with Aston. Iles, always a borderline paranoid, has sunk even deeper in his neurosis here. As Harpur appears to take Aston's place in Sarah's affections, local club owner Ralph Ember takes over the dead man's spot in the criminal hierarchy, becoming a reluctant participant in a bank scheme that seems cursed from the start. Can Ember, known as Panicking Ralph and as talky as the scheme's mastermind, hold up his end of the caper? Has the fearsomely riveting Iles finally gone over the edge? Were James not so resolutely in control of his material and the verbal rhythms and patter of his cast, the narrative would lapse into dark comic territory. But it never once does. Maybe Harpur will get something to do in the next book. (May)