Body and Soul by John Harvey

Body & Soul is the last in Frank Elder series and, altogether, John Harvey’s swansong. I hadn’t read any of the Frank Elder books so, for me, the broad and slow introduction of this character was welcome. I relished the fact that Harvey refused to jump head-on into a gruesome crime scene to shock and hook the reader. Instead, he started with Elder’s laidback life in semi-retirement, with his songstress love interest Vicki by his side.

The small-village Cornish setting is well drawn. Frank fits in well. The discord and the suspense are built into this idyllic setup slowly and with an assured hand. You can tell that at the back of Frank’s mind a turbulent copper’s past is lurking and refuses to be put to rest. Then comes the arrival of his estranged daughter, Katherine. Her bandaged wrists and her reluctance to talk nevertheless tell a tragic tale. Frank uncovers only snapshots of what might have happened, but that’s all he needs: his little girl has been badly hurt. That unleashes their long-buried past and Frank’s internal demons. He burst onto the bohemian London arts scene to punish Antony Winters, a man he blames for Katherine’s breakdown.

The characterisation is excellent: the raging father, the vulnerable, damaged daughter, the smooth, thrills-seeking artist, and then the psychotic criminal responsible for Katherine’s broken body and soul. The investigating officer is no longer retired detective Frank Elder – it is DI Alex Hadley. She is trying to calmly and sensitively put it all together, meandering between father’s grief and daughter’s unreliable mind.

I found the ending brutal, but not unrealistic. My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for making it possible for me to get to know Frank Elder in this final chapter.

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