Sunday, July 6, 2008

Gone to Ground by John Harvey

Loath though I am to say it I have to say that I wasn't very impressed with Gone to Ground. True, the prose style is exquisite, but I didn't think that the mystery at hand was very suspenseful at all, and found the two police detectives to be rather bland characters. What really saved the book for me was the subplot involving the murder victim's reporter sister -- that subplot was well developed and rather interesting, and gave Gone to Ground the energy the book truly needed.

At first glance, the brutal murder of Stephen Bryan looks like a robbery gone very wrong, but as Det. Insp. Will Grayson and Det. Sgt. Helen Walker take in the scene of the crime, they begin to wonder if it might have been a case of murder masked to look like something else. Both detectives have a suspect in mind, but trying to pin this suspect down is proving a lot more difficult than expected. And then Stephen's sister, Lesley, discovers that a manuscript that Stephen was working on, about the life of a 1950s film star, has gone missing, and that the film star's family was less than thrilled about Stephen's interest. Have Grayson and Walker been concentrating on the wrong suspect?

Part of the problem with Gone to Ground was that I didn't find either Grayson and Walker to be very engaging characters, and you really need for the chief protagonists to be charismatic enough to carry the story. And then there were the bits of the book having to do with Grayson's family problems and Walker's personal life -- they weren't very interesting either. The other thing I found disconcerting about Gone to Ground was the plodding pacing of the book -- I didn't find the book to be very suspenseful or riveting, a reaction I was not expecting given how absorbing and compelling I've found Harvey's Frank Elder and his Charlie Resnick books to be. The subplot that saved this book for me was the one dealing with Lesley's investigation into what Stephen was researching. Not only was the subplot a very intriguing one, but Lesley as a character was a very compelling and engaging one as well, giving the book the kind of zip and energy is seemed to be lacking. And that, together with John Harvey's exquisite prose is what saved Gone to Ground for me.

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