Monday, September 14, 2009

Review of The Price of Darkness by Graham Hurley (Orion, 2008)

Jonathan Mallinder specialises in identifying land with development potential, buying it cheap, securing planning permission and moving on. Usually he operates in and around London, but when he starts to become interested in Portsmouth and its environs he ends up dead, shot in the head by someone with all the hallmarks of a professional killer. The only thing at odds with a practised hit is his stolen Mercedes. DI Faraday is assigned to investigate Operation Billhook, but the case looks to be going nowhere. Meanwhile, DC Paul Winter, a cop with 25 years experience of cutting corners and annoying superiors, has swapped being shunted out the force for undercover work, infiltrating the inner circle of Portsmouth’s most notorious criminal – Bazza Mackenzie. Mackenzie is mourning the death of his brother to an accident and wants to set up a jet ski grand prix in his honour. Winter is given the task of making it happen, but his cover is soon exposed to question. Mackenzie doubts Winter has really moved the dark side and his police handlers think he’s a lost cause, leaving him floundering in the middle. A few days after Maitland’s death, the Minister for Defence Procurement is shot dead as he rides through the city. Fearing it was a terrorist attack all the area's police resources are sucked into the new investigation, consigning Faraday to temporary lodgings out in Fareham. Faraday and the industrious DC Suttle set about finding Maitland’s killer, whilst trying to keep a watchful eye on Winter.

The Price of Darkness is eighth book in the DI Faraday series that also feature DC Paul Winter. If you enjoy carefully researched, well written police procedurals, that always try to raise wider questions about the nature of society then I highly recommend them. In this case, the book examines the nature of careerism, collective betrayal of individuals for the ‘greater good’, property development greed and asset stripping with little thought for those who lose their job and pension, and so-called problem families and youths with little future prospects. The characterization is excellent, and Hurley has a keen eye for dialogue and the complexities and contradictions of how people live their lives, including coppers. He also does a very good job of evoking Portsmouth and placing the reader in its landscape and amongst its people. The storytelling is multi-layered, but Hurley is always fully in control, parcelling out the plot though a well-paced narrative. I have one real quibble with the story, but I won't discuss it here as there's no way of doing so without putting in a spoiler. Admittedly there was a nice twist on the quibble, but I felt it didn’t quite feel right. Regardless, it was a great read and I’ll definitely be back for more.

1 comment:

Petrona said...

I read and enjoyed very much a couple by this author at the start of the series, but for some unknown reason lost touch. Your excellent review makes me wonder why.....another one to add to the ever-expanding list!