Game Over, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Severn House, $28.95.
"He's got no form, guv," Hollis reminded him. "Clean as a whistle."
"A whistle might be shiny on the outside, but on the inside it's full of germs and old spit."
-from Game Over
One of the tightest written, funniest, and most endearing of all contemporary British police procedural books are by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. I loved her work from the minute I was introduced to hard working Detective Inspector Bill Slider, from the second the married Bill met Joanna the musician, through the failure of his marriage and the triumph of his relationship with Joanna. The relationship stuff, while mainly a sideline, also gives the series a heft and resonance it probably wouldn't otherwise have. In this tenth outing, Joanna is pregnant and she and Bill are finally planning to tie the knot, though all kinds of things keep getting in their way. In some ways this series is very similar to Jill McGown's, and though Slider and Joanna are mainly happier than McGown's Lloyd and Hill, the end result is the same.
In this novel, Slider and the dapper Atherton are on the case of the murder of well known journalist Ed Stonax. Because of Stonax's prominence they are wondering why it hasn't been kicked further upstairs; things become more complicated when an old enemy of Bill's resurfaces and starts making threats. His officers are all watching his back though the sinister Trevor Bates is nevertheless able to get to him in various unsettling ways, and of course Bill's chief concern is the pregnant Joanna. The Stonax case is further complicated because the victim's daughter, Emily, and the gadfly Atherton have found each other. Emily signs on to help the team with research. She's a journalist like her father and her skills are put to good use. Slider isn't so sure that Atherton should be poaching the victim's daughter, but has no room to object as he also met Joanna on a case (Orchestrated Death).
Like other pitch perfect practitioners of pure genre fiction, Harrod-Eagles has all the elements of her story well in hand. While the strict genre forms the frame, within it there's plenty of room for expansion. Harrod-Eagles is equally skilled at narrative, knowledgeable in police details, deft with her characters and setting - you know you're in London when you read one of these - and the whole is neatly tied up at the end, down to the delivery of Joanna's baby, tying up as well a satisfactory story arc for her main characters. Despite the fact that this series has become difficult to get in the States, they're well worth seeking out, and happily the first six novels are available in trade paperback omnibus form.
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