by John Harvey
The final DI Charlie Resnick novel, from the Cartier Diamond Dagger winner and Sunday Times bestselling author of Cold in Hand.
Thirty years ago, the Miners' Strike threatened to tear the country apart, turning neighbour against neighbour, husband against wife, father against son - enmities which smoulder still.
Resnick, recently made up to inspector, and ambivalent at best about some of the police tactics, had run an information gathering unit at the heart of the dispute.
Now, the discovery of the body of a young woman who disappeared during the Strike brings Resnick out of virtual retirement and back into the front line to assist in the investigation into her murder - forcing him to confront his past in what will assuredly be his last case.
There have been many books written about the miners’ strike but rarely from a Nottinghamshire perspective. Thirty years on and John Harvey, through his Nottingham-based Polish Detective Charlie Resnick, revisits the 1984 strike that threatened a civil war and tore towns and families apart. Partly inspired by David Peace’s novel GB84 Harvey picked the strike as the perfect backdrop to his final crime novel Darkness, Darkness.
It’s 2014 and Resnick is virtually retired. Back during the strike he was running an intelligence gathering unit in north Notts. His team of undercover officers were sent out to mix and mingle, working as spies, their information reported back to the police authorities in London.
When a body is discovered in an old mining town (the fictional Bledwell Vale), under the ruins of a housing block recently knocked down, Resnick is asked to help. Back in ’84 a young woman went missing. Resnick had worked the area and known many of the locals, and has memories that might open a case that’s gone cold. The missing woman is Jenny Hardwick, part of the strike movement and wife of a man that continued to work. The conflict is never forced nor contrived and the reader gets to experience the events of the time through flashbacks as Jenny’s world exists in parallel to Resnick’s 2014 case. Getting to know and like Jenny adds another dimension to the book and lets the reader care about victim the way Resnick always has.
Thatcher, Scargill, the police, the scabs and the strikers are all under fire here and yet there’s a humanity that offers understanding to both sides of the picket line. The lasting damage to whole communities and individual families in never underplayed and the repercussions of that time are still evident within a changing police force. What hasn’t changed in thirty years is the existence of domestic violence and this is confronted, whilst Resnick must also look back at his younger career and a case high on suspects and low on leads. This is a clever way of bringing the series to a conclusion.
Immensely readable, important, and well-paced, it’s a fine who-dun-it and much more besides.
As for Resnick’s farewell, Harvey considered his options, including bumping off his hero, and evidence of that contemplation is found in a fitting finale.
About John Harvey:
Best known as a writer of crime fiction, his work translated into more than twenty languages, John Harvey is also a dramatist, poet, publisher, playwright and occasional broadcaster.
The first of his twelve Charlie Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts, was named by The Times as one of the '100 Best Crime Novels of the Century'. The recipient of honorary doctorates from the Universities of Nottingham and Hertfordshire, in 2007 he was awarded the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement.