cover image Vacuum


Bill James. Severn/Crème de la Crime, $28.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-78029-012-6

Picking up where I Am Gold left off, James’s 28th Harpur & Iles mystery finds Mansel Shale so affected by the murders of his wife, Naomi, and son, Laurent, that he decides to delegate management of his “recreational firm”—everything from Ecstasy to H—to Michael Redvers Arlington, who’s lacking in command experience and sometimes believes himself to be Gen. Francisco Franco. Meanwhile, the new chief constable, Sir Matthew Upton, sees an opportunity to crush both Shales’s firm and that of Ralph Ember and create a “drugs-free city.” Iles is the first to observe that “Nature abhors a vacuum,” a theme that’s echoed repeatedly by various characters on both sides of the criminal divide. While Harpur struggles to prevent the disorganization of Shales’s group from resulting in more killings, Iles works on educating Upton about the superiority of a balanced détente. James’s clever wordplay and broadly humorous take on Arlington’s Franco persona help distinguish this entry. (Dec.)