cover image Gospel


Bill James. Foul Play Press, $22.95 (206pp) ISBN 978-0-88150-383-8

Clever and complex, James's ninth police procedural featuring Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur explores the shadowy, dangerous world of ""grasses""--informers with one foot in the underworld, the other in the police camp and a precarious grasp on the future. Jack Lamb, an art dealer of questionable respectability but certain wealth, is Harpur's major grass. It's a tip from Lamb that allows the police successfully to ambush an armed robbery resulting in the death of dull-witted thief Martin Webb. Doug Webb, Martin's father, is intent on revenge against both Harpur and suspected grass Lamb. As in other James novels, both the police cast and the criminal one are full of recurring characters waging a virtual class war in which some cops have more in common with some criminals (and vice-versa) than with their colleagues. Harpur, never a paragon of domestic virtue, is having an affair with a pretty college student, Denise Prior, and her innocent friendship with Lamb's girlfriend marks her as a possible informer and an easy target for Webb's revenge. Webb forms an uneasy alliance with ""Panicking"" Ralph Ember and Courtney Sanquhar-Perry to pull off a big score, but he also plots vengeance on his own. As he has in earlier entries (Astride the Grave, etc.), James again delivers dead-on dialogue and colorful characters on both sides of the law whose seamless credibility lifts this series well above the ordinary. (Apr.)