Darkness, Darkness

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darknessdarkness200Written by John Harvey — And so after 12 novels, 16 short stories, two television adaptations and four radio plays, Darkness, Darkness marks the final appearance of John Harvey’s stalwart and long serving detective, Charlie Resnick.

Published on the 30th anniversary of the Miner’s Strike, the story centres on this incredibly divisive and emotional period of British political and social history. Neighbour was turned against neighbour, husband against wife and father against son at a time when working class families experienced economic deprivation. With a backdrop of police brutality, corporate greed and unfeeling politicians, young mother Jenny Hardwick goes missing. Set against her husband, who defied the strike, Hardwick became a vocal campaigner on behalf of the miners and their families, causing plenty of friction prior to her disappearance.

With the discovery of her body many years later, the virtually retired Resnick is drawn into the investigation. It’s a trip back in time for him, as he too was involved in this turbulent period. Recalled from his current role in cold case investigation he works alongside DI Catherine Njoroge, an ambitious and dedicated black police officer who has made her way quickly through the ranks. She grapples daily with the judgements made upon her in the profession due to her gender and race. As the contrasting characteristics of youth and experience join forces, the scene is set for a compelling and emotive investigation, revisiting the past and setting old ghosts to rest.

Thanks to Harvey’s superb control of plot and character you’ll be transported between the time when Hardwick disappeared 30 years ago and the present. The book opens with Resnick ruminating after having lost his partner, and acutely feeling the march of time. Although not fully retired, he seems to be missing the cut and thrust of his previous full time police career, so relishes the opportunity to become involved with a case that was never laid to rest, and which carries a certain weight of professional and emotional involvement for him.

Harvey portrays the developing working relationship between Resnick and Njoroge well, and they learn to understand their differences. While Resnick grapples with his mortality, Njoroge is utterly career-focused and navigates the unfortunate and violent side effects of a failed relationship. Both characters are beautifully realised, and the interplay between them is imbued with Harvey’s natural feel and skill in the realm of characterisation. As they revisit the suspects identified in the initial disappearance case, along with those involved with the original investigation, secrets kept both then and no, hinder their hunt for a killer. Why did Jenny Hardwick disappear and who was responsible for her death only recently uncovered?

Having had personal experience of Nottinghamshire during the Miner’s Strike, Harvey brings the weight of this to bear in his description of Bledwell Vale, the fractured community in which Jenny Hardwick lived. I remember this period from my childhood, and the violent scenes and the economic hardship that blighted the mining communities. Every reference to the backdrop of the dispute and the suffering it caused is drawn with absolute clarity, bringing an emotional weight and involvement for the reader throughout.

Obviously to avoid spoilers, I will make no reference to how Resnick bows out, but think I am definitely not alone in mourning the loss of this character in crime fiction arena. With Darkness, Darkness, Harvey has conjured up a fitting and emotive final outing for this long lasting and influential character. As a stolid fan of John Harvey I thank him for it – the final scene is perfect. We’ll miss you Charlie Resnick.

William Heinemann

CFL Rating: 5 Stars


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