Philip Oakes

May 2003 Crime Round Up

  • Michael Connelly, 
  • Robert B Parker, 
  • Ian Pattison, 
  • Samantha Weinberg, 
  • Mike Ripley, 
  • Daniel Chavarria

 

 

Lost Light

By Michael Connelly

Orion 360pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

WELCOME return of Harry Bosch, ex-cop after thirty years with the LAPD. now holder of Hollvwood Private Investigator's licence, still haunted by his last case, relinquished before quitting the force: the still unsolved murder of Angella Benton, killed on her twenty-fourth birthday on her own doorstep. Odd linking of her death with $2 million robbery on movie set. Whodunit and why? Was the loot going (as the LAPD believes) to fund a terrorist training camp? Is federal zeal - fired bv the Twin Towers attacks on September 11 - blunting the edge of vital police work and bypassing justice? Warm, astute, persuasive portrait of conscience driven Bosch, his occupation gone, passing his days trying not to smoke (two packs a day down to nil), learning to play the saxophone (he has great taste in jazz), attempting to mend the break-up with ex-wife Eleanor (now a big-time poker player in Las Vegas), and re-opening his abandoned case with all the guts and gulle that he can lay hands on. A first-to-last-page gripper with dogged detective work, a shoot-out so unexpected that it had me ducking for cover, and an anxiety about police power that is proper, timely and authentic. All set out in prose that's too modest to brag about its muscle (Bosch sees 'a woman so pale ... she might detonate like a match in the Nevada sun') and so well tuned that it delights and nudges the memory for weeks after first reading.

Back Story

By Robert B Parker

John Murray 291pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

SAD news for starters. Wonder Dog Pearl, adored by private eye Spenser and shrink Susan Silverman, has gone to doggy heaven to be replaced by a 15-month-old German shorthand pointer, kennel name Robin Hood's Purple Sandpiper. Susan, of course, believes there's already been a transmigration of souls. 'Pearl's back', she announces. 'She'll know it soon.' Dry your tears. Spenser's back to work in no time, trying to discover why the mob and the FBI are in cahoots, keeping secret who shot a 28-year-old hippie mornrna in a San Diego bank robbery thirty years earlier. Feature role for Hawk, Spenser's resident hard man. Walk-on appearance by Jesse Stone, police chief of Parahse and a Parker hero in another series. Tough, witty, very well layered, with time past raked up to spill its secrets and Spenser - who sometimes seems to be melting at the edges - coming on strong to get to the black heart of it all. After a burst of bloody action he muses: 'What kind of business was I in, where I had to kill three men on a pleasant moonlit night in an Ivy League football stadium.' No easy answer to that. But Parker's spruce and cunning book will speed you towards the right conclusion.

 

 

Sweet and Tender Hooligan

By Ian Pattison

Picador 333pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

GLASGOW gangster Albert Blaney, aka The Surgeon, famed for his clinical removal of enemies and rivals by way of butcher's knives and/or the traditional blunt instrument, leaves London and travels north to see his dead and unloved mother safely to the crem. That done he has other business to attend to, namely the disposal of old associates and the salvaging of his former fearsome reputation. A gory tale told with relish and no hint of a happy ending. 'In Scotland', says Albert, 'silence is a good review.' On home turf he takes stock of the locals and observes: 'Opportunities for human contact abounded owing to that wonderful caledonian gift for blind aggression.' Everyone in the book gets his or her share of it. Pattison (creator of TV's Rab C Nesbitt) burns any old tartan sympathies to a crisp and performs an eightsome on the ashes. His faux-posh prose exudes a dainty menace and the caper he cuts is fierce, joyfbl and funny.

 

Pointing From The Grave

By Samantha Weinberg

Hamish Hamilton 353pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

SHORTLY before she was found strangled in her garden in Del Mar, southern California, in 1985, Helena Greenwood, the 35-year-old head of marketing at a biotech company, read an article in Nature by Alec Jefiieys, 'a scruftjr scientist from Leicester', in which he announced to the world that he had invented DNA fingerprinting. It was a hugely important discovery Greenwood told her company directors and advised them: 'I think we should get into it.' Thirteen years later (when the double helix had entered the language) it was DNA evidence which convicted her murderer, David Paul Frediani, who had served three years in jail for sexually assaulting MS Greenwood, escaping the murder rap for lack of evidence. It was the belated examination of his fingernail clippings which produced the incriminating DNA profile. Frediani insisted that he was framed, but he was found guilty and is now serving a life sentence. Samantha Weinberg's steady account of the crime and its solution does not overdo the dreadful irony which plagues the case. Instead, she sets the evidence in context and enquires - politely but rightly - whether the science is as pure as we suppose and if we are right to view the DNA tool as forensically infallible. The short answer is no. But Weinberg writes so clearly and so reasonably that optimism is in order. She makes a convincing case for the DNA platform, demonstrating how it can prove innocence just as positively as it can show guilt. The information she offers is invaluable. Her book deserves a permanent place on anyone's true crime shelf.

 

Angel On The Inside

By Mike Ripley

Constable Robinson 293pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

ANGEL painfully at odds with mixed bag of Welsh villains who rent a pod on the London Eye in which to administer inventive GBH (the victim's nose is nearly screwed off his face) while glugging champagne and looking down on the Houses of Parliament. A crooked solicitor, with a tame gunsmith who converts innocent air pistols into lethal shooters, is the root of all evll, but the action reaches out to involve fashion queen Amy May (Angel's Significant Other), the Hampstead Neighbourhood Watch, a female private eye with a skinful of tattooed dolphns and a famous heavy, safe behind bars. who can still intimidate anyone who upsets him by ordering the unique and unwanted interior redecoration of their abode. For reasons vou will understand but never wish to experience, he is called Mr Creosote. Full of the good stuff, with a plot as meaty as steak and just as rich in protein, a comprehensive tour of Belrnont high-security prison (female visitors suspected of smugghng in heroin wraps are given 'the Vaseline digit treatment'), the usual dlsdain for greedy London pubs ('There seemed to be no change for a fiver', reflects Angel after placing a modest order), and a cordial dislike of most things Welsh. Lampeter, he notes while striving to pay a compliment, 'is the only university town in the UK without a McDonaldS'. Say no more; lie back and enjoy.

Adios Muchachos

By Daniel Chavarria

Serpent's Tail 245pp £8.99 order from our bookshop

BLACK and bawdy Cuban pulp fiction focusing on luscious Alicia, Havana hooker who conducts her business by bike, displaying her best feature - the plumpest, most mobile rump in town - by pedalling ahead of luxury cars, then taking a well-choreographed tumble to reel in any pursuing punter. Bigger profits promised by inventive Canadian crook who involves her in hectic scam which ends blithely with kidnap of deep-frozen corpse. Entirely good-humoured, with some fine ribald moments. A touch too pleased with its own bad taste maybe, but inventive where it most helps. 'Horizontal rhumba', for example, sounds like it should be fun.

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