John Harvey has given us the Charlie Resnick books, about a detective inspector based in Nottingham, then the shorter Frank Elder series about a retired detective inspector, Frank Elder, who keeps getting called back to Nottingham to sort out cases that have a connection with his past. Gone to Ground, however, is a one-off, and we move to Cambridge, to the investigation of the death of an academic involved in writing about a dead film star. Nevertheless, and as in previous books, there is a bit of name-checking going on, including Lynn Kellogg from the Charlie Resnick series, and Radio New Zealand’s “redoubtable” Kim Hill. This last because a key figure in the story is Lesley Scarman, sister of the deceased, who is a radio journalist fairly recently returned from a stint in New Zealand.
At first, the murder looks like a gay lovers’ tiff gone bad, but as detectives Will Grayson and Helen Walker from the Major Investigation Team, and Lesley Scarman, investigate further, it looks as though the killing may have something to do with what the victim, Stephen Bryan, might have find out about as he researched his book about a dead British film star. It seems that the film, that caught the attention of film buffs, had some similarities with her own life. Along the way we get mixed up in shady dealings at the Council, racist and homophobic attacks, not to mention some nasty family secrets. There is some stretching of coincidence when it turns out that Lesley’s former husband does PR for the soap star niece of the dead film star, but it all hangs together even if at times there seems to be lot of material stuffed into the story.
The action moves between the three main protagonists, and we get a good balancing look at their private lives and issues, which help make it all seem more real. This is especially useful in dealing with the relationship between Will and Helen – and it is interesting that John Harvey does keep a bit of tension there. The use of Lesley as an investigator, not of the police but with key reasons, experience and relationships to help move the process forward, is an interesting device. It will be interesting to see if John Harvey takes these characters anywhere other than a passing reference in future books.
Gone to Ground by John Harvey, published in paperback by Arrow (2008), ISBN: 9780099489962
See the Wikipedia entry on John Harvey.
Other books by John Harvey:
Charlie Resnick series – Lonely Hearts (1989), Rough Treatment (1990), Cutting Edge (1991), Off Minor (1992), Wasted Years (1993), Cold Light (1994), Living Proof (1995), Easy Meat (1996), Still Water (1997), Last Rites (1998), Now’s the Time (short stories) 1999, Trouble in Mind (novella) (2007), Cold in Hand (2008).
Frank Elder series – Flesh and Blood (2004), Ash and Bone (2005), Darkness and Light (2006)
Other books – In A True Light (2001)