Good Bait

America may be a violent country,goodbait but if you watch a lot of BBC News or, heaven forbid, read a lot of British city mysteries, you’ll be surprised at the sheer number of brutal assaults, rapes, major drug deals, organized crime incidents, gang wars and a surprising number of shootings for a society that has much stricter gun control than ours. The trail of carnage is pretty extensive in John Harvey’s GOOD BAIT, a standalone novel in Harvey’s oeuvre that is not related to either of his Charlie Resnick or Frank Elder series.

GOOD BAIT takes its name from a famous jazz composition, and Harvey uses both the book’s title and other numerous music references to indicate the ups and downs and the emotional whirlings of the investigation.

Detective Chief Inspector Karen Shields of London’s Homicide division is confronted by the murder of a young Moldovan man, stripped, stabbed, a finger removed, then immersed in ice and frozen solid.

The victim seems almost friendless, no connections, no leads. The few people that knew the victim that the force is able to track down are strangely reluctant to say anything. Is it the traditional aggrieved and pouty, but unwarranted, reticence of the young, or is it something more sinister?

As Shields investigates, she uncovers more and more crimes, some potentially related to her Moldovan corpse, others just part of a busy London crime wave. At the same time, we’re treated to an alternate story featuring a Cornwall detective attempting to track down a former dog walker for whom he has some kind of unresolved attraction. The two cases are tangentially related, but in a clever trick, the author never has the two detectives meet.

The multiple cases and the starts and stops along the way make GOOD BAIT seem to be a very realistic police procedural. While the central characters are somewhat incompletely drawn, the dialogue (even when written in a young tough’s dialect) is crisp and sure. There’s a lot of promise here for Shields and her team to set forth in a new series of detective tales. Might be worth checking out. —Mark Rose

Buy it at Amazon.

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Comment by R
2013-01-18 10:26:36

Was that first sentence supposed to be referring to fictional homicides and shootings? Because I could put about a hundred links proving the exact opposite with actual numbers. Incredibly low numbers.

That intro felt entirely unnecessary, and more like irrelevant political venting than anything else.

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Comment by Mark Rose
2013-01-18 18:48:40

I’m sure you could. I could do the same with different results. Even considering that the UK categorizes “violent crimes” differently than the US, it does have a surprising amount of violence and violent crimes and this is reflected in their reporting and in mysteries set within inner cities. Sorry you didn’t like the irrelevant political venting, I enjoyed putting it in there!

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Comment by Mark Rose
2013-01-18 19:04:41

For instance, this link:
based on the United Nations Survey of Crime Trends indicates that England and Wales is just behind the US in rapes, ahead of the US in robberies, significantly ahead of the US in assaults resulting in serious injury (and Scotland is insanely ahead) and well ahead of the US in burglaries per 100,000 population. Surprisingly, Ireland is even ahead of the US in auto thefts. England is 3rd out of 36 countries in assaults resulting in serious injuries, 5th (out of 34 countries) in rape, and 7th in robberies and burglaries. They ARE lower in homicide rates but as the report states: “…we [England and Wales] are a high-crime society with a particular propensity to violence short of intentional homicide.”

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Comment by Mark Rose
2013-01-18 19:34:59

And sorry for this final comment, R, but heck, you made me think about it, and that’s a good thing, no? You are correct of course if what you wanted to prove is that violent crimes that involve guns is much, much lower per capita in the UK than in the US, but even with strict gun control, the UK is still a pretty violent place. Otherwise, no one would write mysteries set there. 🙂

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Comment by R
2013-01-22 11:50:06

Actually, I didn’t want to prove anything. I just wanted to read a book review.

And you may be right about England being more violent. Frankly, I don’t care one tiny piece how violent or nonviolent England is. Your first sentence for some reason tries to attribute England’s violent crimes with its gun control laws. The sentence still makes no sense to me. Basically you said I should be surprised about all the violent non-gun crimes committed in a society with strict gun laws. This really isn’t about politics, though of course it’s annoying when someone throws their politics in their face. This is about a sentence, a point, that really makes no sense to me.

Sorry, everyone, for making him write three comments in response, which wasn’t my intention.


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