Monday, June 08, 2009


The streets of London may have at one time been paved with gold but the streets of Exeter are full of pot holes and speed bumps. 
As a result I had to spend some time getting new tyres and the wheel tracking sorted out last week.
I needed a book to read while I waited and as I had just read three books that came in at 367, 474, 468 pages respectively I picked up the much more manageable 200 page Roses, Roses by Bill James. This book written in 1993 had been featured by John Harvey in his interview at Crime Fest in Bristol, and is one of the long running Harpur & Iles  Mystery series. 

I feel guilty that I haven't read any of this iconic series before but better late than never. The first sentence sets the scene for the narrative which switches between Megan Harpur's last day and the aftermath. The dialogue has a style of its own with a brisk conversational quirkiness in which people frequently interrupt each other. 
The novel begins dramatically:

When she was killed by three chest knife blows in a station car park, Megan Harpur had been on her way home to tell her husband she was leaving him for another man.

And is full of  compelling dialogue:

"This is a dangerous and vicious city, like all the rest, and you people can't cope."
"Sometimes we have a victory, Mrs Grant," he replied.
"Yes, perhaps."
"We have to look after ourselves, and look after those close to us. To be blunt you have failed us, are failing us, Mr Harpur."

I am only half way through the book but definitely enjoying it so far. 


Blogger Bernadette said...

As I was trying to select my next book to read last night (from a pile of 100+ mind you) I was grizzling the whole time about the thickness of them all. I wanted something short and, hopefully, sweet. The best I could do was R N Morris' 293 page THE GENTLE AXE.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I know I had to search around myself as Mrs Crime Scraps refused to carry a large book in her shopping bag.
Some classic crime books such as Roseanna and The Maltese Falcon are about 200 pages but the trend is for longer books.
I think writers forget that in the days of super long Dickens books they were published in episodes in magazines.
Roses Roses is sweet in its own bizarre way.

I am sure you will enjoy the The Gentle Axe it is the start of an interesting series.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Martin Edwards said...

I've read several books in the Harpur and Iles series, and found them distinctive and enjoyable.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, there is something resonant about even the simplest bits of dialogue:

"Sometimes we have a victory, Mrs Grant."

Not "sometimes we win," but "sometimes we have a victory." That very slight oddity of diction packs a mundance sentence with a power of sentiment it might otherwise have lacked.

James is simply the best.

Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

7:05 PM  

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