Body and Soul

Written by John Harvey

Review written by Bob Cartwright

Body and Soul
William Heinemann
RRP: £14.99
Released: April 19, 2018

John Harvey pensioned off Charlie Resnick in Darkness, Darkness, enabling him to spend a happy retirement listening to Thelonious Monk painting pictures on a piano. For Body and Soul he dusts down Frank Elder and gives him an outing for what is prescribed his last case.

The case is an intensely personal one for Frank, starting with a phone call from his daughter Katherine who asks if she can spend some time with him in Cornwall.  Frank constantly worries about his daughter and feels  guilty for her abduction, rape and torture some years earlier by a nasty piece of work called Adam Keach. Currently, she lives in London making do with a stream of temporary jobs, including recent stints as a life model for art classes  and latterly some modelling for Anthony Winter, an artist on the verge of public recognition but with a reputation which gains him few friends.

The visit is negotiated with Katherine’s insistence that Frank asks her nothing about her life in London and especially nothing about the bandages on her wrists. Frank fails to keep his promise and the next day Katherine catches the train back to London. Perplexed by her behaviour Frank looks into the background of the artist and finds much to justify his concern. He also finds that Winter is launching a new exhibition of his work and, travelling to London, blags his way into the gallery. He loses and rag and busts Winter’s nose when he sees a couple of canvases depicting Katherine bound in chains and legs open leaking menstrual blood. A little after Frank’s return to Cornwall, Winter is found bludgeoned to death in his studio. The police consider Katherine as a principal suspect.

Back in London Frank tries to assist his daughter through police interrogations, while at the same assisting the police investigation and pursuing his own inquiries. The situation is further complicated when Keach, Katherine’s original abuser, escapes when the prison van transferring him from one prison to another is in  a collision.  Frank is called back to Nottingham to assist his former colleagues in their efforts to recapture Keach.

The story builds brilliantly as one would expect from John Harvey, but concludes in a way which is totally unexpected. It will be interesting to see if John will now generate a new vehicle for any further ventures in crime fiction. Some possibilities surface among the new characters introduced in Body and Soul. I very much hope so. While I am prepared to let John Harvey dispense with his main characters I am not prepared to see him disappear from crime fiction bookshelves. With that in mind I wish John a very speedy return to health and to the crime fiction bestseller lists.

What a wonderful title for a book.  It follows a reference in the text to Billy Holliday’s vocal version of that song. But throughout the book I found myself humming the Coleman Hawkins saxophone recording which has always been one of my favourite jazz numbers. Of course none of this is at all surprising coming from an author who has lovingly fused jazz and crime fiction over recent decades.

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