Good Bait by John Harvey

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Good Bait by John Harvey

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A journey through those parts of the criminal underworld which you wish you could believe don't exist - with a great plot and believable characters. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: January 2012
Publisher: William Heinemann
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0434021628

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DCI Karen Shields runs the over-stretched Homicide and Serious Crimes Unit and it's an early-morning call which takes her to Hampstead Heath and a seventeen-year-old Moldovan boy who's dead under the ice in the pond. Even working out who he was is difficult and she's got no idea that she's at the edge of a web of organised crime and gang warfare which will take up much of her time. Hundreds of miles away DI Trevor Cordon lives in a sail loft in Newlyn and his day-to-day duties are, well, undemanding but he's shaken out of his rut when an old acquaintance dies in London and he heads off to the capital to find the friend's daughter. It's going to be a lot more complicated than he realises - and it touches on Karen Shield's problems in a way that neither of them could ever have imagined.

Put like that, it sounds quite straight forward, doesn't it? Well, it's anything but, with webs of people who know other people, are beholden to them or are intent on revenge. It's the criminal underclass who're increasingly infiltrating London - and bringing with them an greater supply of drugs, people trafficking, prostitution and gang warfare. Murder is an easy solution to many a problem and it really doesn't matter who gets in the way. It's a rich seam to mine for a plot and this one makes full use of the scene. The plotting is tight and very, very believable.

Karen Shields is black and not too old to enjoy a good social life. (Did I put that nicely, or not?) She's got where she is on merit and she is good at her job - but not perfect. She's human and really comes off the page, fully clothed (and occasionally, not). Her team were painted using remarkably few words - but Mike Ramsden could have carried a book himself and I'll always love him for his forthright words to a television reporter. John Harvey seems to have finished this book in the early summer of 2011 but as I read I was put in mind of a non-fiction book I read recently - Out of the Ashes: Britain After the Riots by David Lammy - and it was difficult to escape the conclusion that Harvey really does have his finger on the pulse of what is happening in the criminal underworld and some of the more deprived areas of London. There's a real sense, not just of what's happening, but of why it's happening and where there are gaps in the net. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I rather hope that this is a start of a new series from Harvey, but just chance you'd like to see more of his writing we can recommend A Darker Shade of Blue. It's a book of short stories and several of them feature a London-based PI who features in Good Bait.

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