cover image Hotbed


Bill James. Countryman, $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-88150-950-2

This pedestrian entry in James's long-running Harpur & Iles series (In the Absence of Iles, etc.) will appeal only to devoted fans, but even they will find the tendency of every character not to answer questions irritating. Ralph Ember and Mansel Shale, the heads of two rival gangs that control criminal activities in their unnamed English seaport city, have an uneasy truce, though each craves monopoly in accordance with Karl Marx's frequently referenced dictum about capitalism. As Ember dreams, laudably and laughably, of turning his low-class club, the Monty, into something akin to a prestigious London club, and Mansel invests big money in his art collection, a possible war looms with the murder of Ember's inside man. Meanwhile, Asst. Chief Constable Desmond Iles and Det. Chief Supt. Colin Harpur, who cordially detest one another, exchange barbs, with Iles ranting occasionally about Harpur having slept with his wife. James's usually sharp humor shows signs of age. (May)