editor's choice



I ALMOST WEPT WHEN THE CHARLIE RESNICK BOOKS CAME TO AN END. They were brilliant – not just crime fiction at its best, but also insightful political and social commentaries on the state of Britain at the time, set to a lot of great music. I didn’t read any John Harvey after that, so, it’s a huge pleasure to come back to him through his latest book, Body and Soul. Like bumping into a long lost friend and not being disappointed by the encounter.

The fourth outing for ageing former detective Frank Elder, the novel opens in Cornwall, where he has retreated to lick his wounds, contemplate the universe and hang out in local jazz bars, listening to his sometime lover sing old standards like Holiday’s ‘Body and Soul’. He’s awaiting the arrival of his daughter, Katherine, who’s contacted him after some time, and he’s viewing the visit with somewhat hopeful trepidation. From the first though, it’s obvious Katherine is troubled, but when he questions her, she disappears. Against all advice, Elder follows her back to east London, where she lives, and through flashbacks, we track Katherine’s disturbing relationship with artist Anthony Winter and her journey from muse to would-be murder suspect.


Katherine vomited.

Choked. Bile stuck in the back of her throat.

Winter plucked another piece of rag from the ground and gave it to her to wipe her mouth; when she moved the rag away it had left a gash of paint against her cheek.

‘You all  right.’

She blinked, nodded, blinked again.

Something about the way he was looking at her was different now […] looking at her as if she were naked not nude.

‘All right,’ he asked again and smiled.

She thought that he must touch her now, but no.

That was later …”


Harvey’s beautifully pared back writing, tight plot and careful characterisation raise Body and Soul above the bar of what’s merely good crime fiction – and there’s been a lot of that published in recent months.

His prose seems effortless, the prevailing feeling of the book one of perfectly pitched melancholy, accented by a soundtrack of eclectic, carefully referenced music. Cornwall and London, the main settings for the book, feature prominently; the author’s evocation of rural and urban landscapes both detailed and true.

Harvey’s clever interweaving of past and present conflicts inform Body and Soul, leading to a book that is surprisingly action packed in less than 300 pages and yet also extremely well-paced.

Elder is believable as a father trying to find his way back to the vulnerable daughter he feels he’s let down and as a former detective, disgusted at times with the seemingly careless and incompetent investigation into Winter’s death. A somewhat tragic hero, fighting his own demons, he seems to be moving, through the book, towards some kind of resolution.

I almost wept when I read Darkness, Darkness because it was Resnick’s last outing, but I have to confess to having suspiciously damp eyes when I finished this book.

It is great British crime fiction – and when that’s great, well, is there really anything better?


John Harvey’s Body and Soul  • 19 April 2018 • William Heinemann • Hardback • £14.99


Music to read to: ‘Body and Soul’, Billie Holiday (1940), the title of the book and also referenced; ‘Bag’s Groove‘, Take 2 (1954), Harvey references the original in the book, but outtake Take 2 is a personal favourite;Sweet and Lovely‘, Theolonius Monk (1963), love this discordant version – and one for Resnick; ‘Yama‘, from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ A Night in Tunisia (1961) – just because it’s a particularly gorgeous piece of music. Probably all accompanied by a few espressos or several glasses of merlot.


Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of Body and Soul book blog tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater for arranging it and being generally rather great and to the publisher for kindly supplying a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are our own. Quoted text p. 70 © John Harvey 2018. Image © The Literary Shed 2018.


See:  ‘John Harvey on saying goodbye to Charlie Resnick‘ in Darkness, Darkness (the last novel, book 12, featuring Resnick).


Also of interest:Black Water – an entrée into Dublin’s underworld‘; ‘The Outer Circle – a tale of our times’; ‘Leigh Russell’s Geraldine Steel – you just can’t keep a good woman down’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir’; ‘Finlay’s last stand – Matt Johnson’s End Game’; ‘We should all be feminists’; ‘Jane Harper’s stylish debut – The Dry’; ‘Mallory an old-style hero – It Happens in the Dark by Carol O’Connell’; ‘The long road – John Fairfax’s Summary Justice‘; ‘Nora Roberts’ Come Sundown – a tale of strong women’; How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original Penguin Ten’; ‘Book covers we love – Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday’.


This review is © 2018 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.