Graham Hurley. Western Approaches. UK: Orion Paperback, 2013.
Sadly, Hurley's series in Portsmouth ("Pompey") with Joe Faraday is over but here is a new beginning with young DI Jimmy Suttle in the Devon and Cornwall police. The Suttles have moved to live in a dismal, rundown cottage while Jimmy investigates an apparent suicide. Jake Kinsey was not a likeable man despite his financial contributions to the Exmouth Rowing Club and Jimmy suspects murder. Kinsey's plan to develop a nearby pristine beach had elicited mixed reaction. The members of Kinsey's "quad" (four-man sculling team) expound on the man's activities. Meanwhile Lizzie, Suttle's wife, joins the rowing club as an outlet for her anger with their living conditions; no-one knows she's the wife of a cop.
Jimmy is still getting used to his new bosses, Houghton and Nandy; how much leeway will they give him to pursue what looks like a cut-and-dried death? He uncovers more of Kinsey's unsavoury history but pressure is mounting on him, not only to find evidence for his theory, but also from Lizzie who is going off the rails. His marriage is floundering. Lizzie's deep frustration is understandable while Jimmy's character is not as well defined. As to be expected from Hurley, the natural surroundings play a part as do the physical benefits of rowing; the sea has been a major force on many lives. I for one plan to follow this engaging series.
For reasons she didn't begin to understand, she'd ended up in a prison cell of her own making. (20)
For all his talk of falling in love, something was holding him back. (232)
"From where I was sitting, the man was on another planet."
"Because of his wife?"
"You couldn't tell. Did he miss her? Yes, I think he did. Was that the end of the story? No way."
"There was other stuff?"
"There had to be. He wasn't difficult or uncooperative, don't get me wrong. He just didn't say a lot."
"Meaning he had something to hide?"
"Meaning there were limits, places you didn't go. I can't remember meeting anyone so private."
"Fuck-off private? Or private private?"
"Private private. We're not talking aggression. Far from it. I had the impression he'd be a good guy to have a drink with." (118)
The officer returned with the breathalyser. Suttle blew into the tube. The PC watched the figures on the readout climb and climb. His mate had joined him by now. Their backs were turned and Suttle caught a mumbled exchange before the officer was back in his face. The reading was just short of the figure that would haul him back to the nick for a blood test and a great deal of paperwork.
"Who's a lucky boy then?" He didn't bother to hide his disappointment. "Would you step this way, sir?" (216-7)
She parked across the road and switched the engine off. The light was on in the upstairs flat and the curtains were pulled back. She stared up at it for a long moment, trying to steady her pulse, trying to regain control of herself. She'd never snapped like that in her entire life, and the knowledge of where it might lead alarmed her deeply. She'd never been frightened of making decisions. On the contrary, especially at work, she'd won a reputation for being on top and ballsy in the trickiest situations. (237)
Chris Brookmyre. Flesh Wounds. UK: Abacus/Little, Brown, 2013.
Are all his books like this? ... intricate, enigmatic, constantly time-shifting? This one is a saga of the Glasgow underworld and the cops who catch (or are caught by) them, almost a historical review of power battles. Of course there are redeeming characters like DS Catherine McLeod and DI Beano Thompson, and like private investigator Jasmine Sharp who seeks the identity of her unknown father. The death of money-laundering businessman Stevie Fullarton in his own carwash sets off a chain of enquiries that leads back to old feuds and crimes.
Jasmine's mentor Glen Fallan drifts almost like a ghost behind the scenes; his role everywhere is a mystery in itself. McLeod has her own dark secret that may prevent her from exposing police corruption. Overwhelmed at first by the abundance of names and mysterious references to clustered relationships of the past, I felt like I was floundering through a thick fog for a while. And I did glaze over a bit on the inventive criminal money scams. Brookmyre does not stint on the Glaswegian vernacular. But on the whole, the story is actually brilliant; advanced armchair sleuths will find great satisfaction.
These guys worked hard to put layers of deniability between themselves and their activities. (115)
Something hung in the air between these two that was not precisely blame or accusation, but definitely a cousin of both. (237)
Doing the job was what kept the darkness from swallowing her for ever. (396)
Reading his rights:
"I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Stephen Fullarton. You do not have to say anything ..."
He watched the erstwhile roadblock part slowly as the two police cars reversed away from each other in order to let the custody van drive through. Glen's head swam as they picked him up and dragged him toward it.
You do not have to say anything.What was there to say? He was at their mercy now, and he wasn't expecting much of that.
There was only one way left for him to play this, a way he had learned a long and very dark time ago. He would not resist. He would let them have their way, let them dole out the damage until they themselves were tired from the blows. Then, once they were satisfied that he couldn't take any more, he would strike. (67)
The maze begins:
"I've got officers talking to Fullarton's people but I'm not expecting them to give us anything. I'm sure they'll all be baffled as to how anybody could possibly wish the slightest harm upon such a gentle spirit and widely respected pillar of the community."
"All the while making their own inquiries as to who might be behind the hit. That's assuming they don't know you've arrested Fallan, but even then, they'll be working on their conspiracy theories."
"Fallan did used to work for Tony McGill," she suggested.
"And so did Stevie Fullarton," Abercorn replied. "That's Glasgow bam politics for you: it can be labyrinthine in its complexity and yet staringly obvious at the same time. The farther back you go, the murkier it gets, and this particular love triangle goes all the way back to the late eighties." (78)
An unexpected witness:
Catherine had to remind herself that she was talking to a priest. It wasn't just that he was dressed in muddy football kit, but his language and even his metre jarred with all her previous experience. The others she had met tended to slip into this auto-piety register that seemed an attempt to imbue their mundane and frequently asinine contributions with some deeper meaning and authority.
"How did he die?"
"He went off a roof at Bailliehall prison."
McGhee arched his brow. Clearly there were layers to this. (249-50)
She was with her husband and her boys, sitting in the kitchen, present but not quite connected. Was that how it was going to be now? Was that the price?
What really hurt ‒ what always hurt most about this ‒ was that she couldn't tell Drew what was wrong. He was the first one she went to when she needed to unload, to pour out her troubles and be shown they weren't so awful now that they weren't flapping around manically inside her skull like a bird trapped in an attic.
She had been missing him, even as he was sitting right beside her. It had been this way many times down the years, but tonight she had experienced a far more acute version of it, and found herself facing an entire future of feeling this way. (397)
Peter May. The Lewis Man. (large print) USA: Thorndike Press, 2012.
A splendid work from the master of Outer Hebrides crime novels: stand-alone, yet building on his The Blackhouse. Fin Macleod has left the Edinburgh police force to face unresolved personal issues on his native Isle of Lewis. His son Fionnlagh is at a critical stage with a new baby and a disapproving father-in-law. His former lover Marsaili contends with aging parents, especially her father in the grip of dementia. And a well-preserved "bog body" has turned up: a murdered young man whose identity is a mystery. Naturally Fin becomes involved in the search for clues that reaches back to an earlier generation and sterner social practices. We learn the bygone customary procedure for Catholic orphans in a Calvinist society.
Fin is on it before a detective can arrive from the mainland to take charge of the case; Fin's plan to rebuild his parents' old home is put on hold. It's hard to put down this book as pieces from the past surge from old memories and the surprise conclusion is right in keeping with an ageless tradition. Bill Lawson, well known genealogist of the Isle of Harris, makes a guest appearance. The dominant surroundings and the weather on those austere windswept islands are integral to the characters' personae. May's portrayal of dementia is extraordinary, unforgettable!
Someone had hung out washing at the manse, and white sheets flapped furiously in the wind like demented semaphore flags urging praise and fear of God in equal measures. (55)
All along the ragged coastline, the sea sucked and frothed and growled, tireless legions of riderless white horses crashing up against the stubborn stone of unyielding black cliffs. (138)
There is always a moment of internal silence after being in the presence of death. A reminder of your own fragile mortality. (156)
That old feeling:
She pushed herself, laden with weariness, away from the counter and sat heavily in her chair. Her face was strained by tension and fatigue, pale and pinched in the harsh electric light. But he saw in it still the little girl who had first drawn him to her all those years before. The little girl with the blonde pigtails who had sat next to him that first day at school and offered to translate for him, because for some reason inexplicable to the young Fin his parents had sent him to school speaking only Gaelic. He reached across the table and brushed the hair from her blue eyes, and for a moment she lifted a hand to touch his, a fleeting moment of recollection, of how it had once been long ago. She dropped her hand to the table again. (129)
Where the heart is:
Home? Was this really his home now, he wondered. This wind-ravaged corner of the earth where warring factions of an unforgiving Protestant religion dominated life. Where men and women struggled all their lives to make a living from the land, or the sea, turning in times of unemployment to the industries that came, and went again when subsidies ran out, leaving the rusting detritus of failure in their wake.
It seemed, if anything, more depressed than it had in his youth, entering again a period of decline after a brief renaissance fuelled by politicians courting votes by the spending of millions on a dying language.
But if here wasn't home, where was? Where else on God's earth did he feel such an affinity with the land, the elements, the people? (207)
" ... Most of the men were fishermen in those days, at sea five days a week, and the Eriskay jerseys knitted with that oiled wool were as good as waterproofs. They all wore them."
She swerved at the foot of the drive as she took a draw on her cigarette, and missed the fencepost by inches.
"Each of the women had their own pattern, you know. Usually handed down from mother to daughter. So distinctive that when a man's body was pulled from the sea, decayed beyond recognition, he could almost always be identified from the knitted pattern of his pullover. As good as a fingerprint, it was."
She waved at the old man and his dog to whom Fin had spoken earlier, and the Mercedes nearly went into a ditch. (366-7)