Darkness, Darkness, by John Harvey (Pegasus)
The Gist: “And so after 12 novels, 16 short stories, two television adaptations, and four radio plays, Darkness, Darkness marks the final appearance of John Harvey’s stalwart and long-serving detective, Charlie Resnick,” explains the blog Crime Fiction Lover. A Polish-descended detective inspector with the police in the East Midlands city of Nottingham, Resnick made his debut in 1989’s Lonely Hearts, conceived of by author Harvey as “very much in the mold of Frank Furillo,” the middle-management type in charge of the eccentric squad on television’s Hill Street Blues—only “instead of wearing smart off-the-pegs suits, [he] was outfitted by the same tailor as Columbo.” The redundantly titled Darkness, Darkness finds Resnick “even more melancholy than usual, filled with regrets and thoughts of his own mortality,” writes Adam Woog in The Seattle Times. “The rumpled, canny and jazz-loving Resnick is also retired and bored--until a young detective, Catherine Njoroge, asks for help investigating the recently discovered remains of a woman [Jenny Hardwick] who had disappeared in the mid-1980s. That period was a dark moment in England’s history: a bitter coal miners’ strike that devastated the nation. It also tore friends and family apart--as with the murder victim, a strike supporter, and her husband, a miner who became a scab rather than strike.” Harvey, says Kirkus Reviews, “seamlessly weaves together the present-day investigation into Jenny’s death--a process complicated by not only the passage of time, but also the lingering distrust stirred up by the strike and its aftermath--and the last weeks of Jenny’s life.” A secondary plot line about Njoroge’s confrontations with an abusive ex-lover adds further emotional depth to this yarn.
What Else You Should Know: Jake Kerridge, who writes about crime fiction for Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, had a nice take on Resnick’s legacy, when this book was first published in the UK this last summer:
In the early-to-mid-1990s it looked like Resnick was set to be the new star British sleuth, and although by the end of the decade he had been superseded in the public’s affections by Ian Rankin’s [John] Rebus, Harvey’s books have hogged the critics’ superlatives, even being compared by Elmore Leonard, no less, with Graham Greene, no less.However, it’s Raven--a pseudonymous reviewer for Crime Fiction Lover--who gets the final word here: “Obviously to avoid spoilers, I will make no reference to how Resnick bows out [at the end of Harvey’s new novel], but think I am definitely not alone in mourning the loss of this character [from the] crime fiction arena. With Darkness, Darkness, Harvey has conjured up a fitting and emotive final outing for this long-lasting and influential character. As a stolid fan of John Harvey I thank him for it--the final scene is perfect. We’ll miss you, Charlie Resnick.”
Rebus may be the greater imaginative creation, but Resnick seems to me to be the more authentic portrayal of what the average real-life copper is like. Over the years he has become more of an observer than a man of action, and indeed this book finds him retired from the fray and advising the police in a civilian capacity. There are intimations of obsolescence--he is baffled by some aspects of modern life and no longer even recognizes most of the names on the bill at Ronnie Scott’s--but unlike Ruth Rendell’s increasingly bewildered Inspector Wexford, Resnick still convinces as a competent detective.
READ MORE: “Author John Harvey Interview: Resnick’s Last Case,” by Lynette Pinchess (Nottingham Post).