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Graham Hurley

Orion Books Ltd.

UK Hardcover First

ISBN: 0752831852

Publication Date: September 2000

280 Pages; £16.99

The Take

Graham Hurley

Orion Books Ltd.

UK Hardcover First

ISBN: 0752831879

Publication Date: October 2001

288 Pages; £25.90

Date Reviewed: August 31, 2003

Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2003




Graham Hurley is a documentary film producer turned fiction writer with more than a dozen titles to his credit, including book-into-film 'Rules of Engagement'. In 2000 with 'Turnstone', he began a police procedural series featuring Detective Inspector Joe Faraday of the CID squad based in Portsmouth, England. 'Turnstone' was followed by 'The Take' in 2001, 'Angels Passing' in 2002, and the recently released 'Deadlight' in 2003. Many authors might shy away from launching yet another police procedural series in an overpopulated field, finding it a daunting task to create something original and unique that hasn't been done again and again, sometimes well, sometimes badly. Hurley was undaunted by the task, and the continuation of the series and its increasing popularity, attest that he has succeeded in finding a receptive audience.

Police procedurals often focus on a single protagonist, with other squad members relegated to minor roles. Hurley's Faraday series cuts a wider swath. While Joe Faraday is the anchor of the series, there is a strong cast of recurring supporting characters, male and female, savvy old-timers and eager rookies, who round out the stories and add dimension and depth to the narrative.

We meet this cast of characters first in 'Turnstone'. Joe Faraday is the D.I of the Portsmouth CID squad. He's a middle-aged long-time cop, who raised his deaf son after his wife's untimely death of cancer. Trapped by bureaucratic paperwork, unreasonable expectations, too many crimes and far too few resources, Faraday struggles between damage control and justice. Working with him is Cathy Lamb, stalwart female Inspector, Faraday's platonic friend and confidant. Also working with Faraday, or, more often, against him, is Paul Winter, an egotistical, manipulative and ethically footloose cop of questionable integrity and mixed loyalties. While Faraday and Winter are frequently at odds, both personally and ethically, they are in fact aptly paired, foils and reluctant friends.

'Turnstone' weaves multiple story lines into a cohesive whole. Red Rum is the drug task force's program to bring down the drug baron of Portsmouth, the powerful Marty Harrison. CID searches for a child's missing father, feared dead and discovers foul play in the Fastnet boat race by win-at-all-costs millionaire yacht-owner, Charlie Oames. Faraday, Lamb and Winter, working sometimes together and sometimes at cross-purposes, pursue each to a close. Each sub-plot encompasses multiple characters - drug lords and millionaires; high-class hookers and middle class everymen; lifelong boatsmen and lifelong losers. Hurley handles both the multiple narratives and the expansive cast with assuredness and skill.

'The Take', too, encompasses multiple plot lines. A wealthy disgraced gynecologist/butcher, accused of maiming scores of women, is now missing and likely murdered. A young CID colleague has been killed in a head-on auto wreck, with suspicious undertones, and a rapist wearing a Donald Duck mask, is attacking women at random. Faraday, Lamb and Winter, each with new personal tribulations, return again to bring order from chaos, to catch criminals while not catching flack.

Underpinning both 'Turnstone' and 'The Take' is the city of Portsmouth in southeast England, a city of cruel contrasts. Despite its rich maritime history, Portsmouth has descended into a dirty, over populated, drug infested crime haven inhabited by the poorest of Britain's populace. Alongside, carefully sheltered in manicured developments with exquisite ocean views, are some of Britain's most wealthy, eager to replace the decaying old with the shiny and profitable new, the glitzy shops and restaurants favored by the rich. Portsmouth is a city of low expectations and stoic resignation. The societal conflicts between an impoverished and struggling general populace and self-centered, wealthy redevelopers are expertly woven into Hurley's stories and provide much of their richness.

The Faraday series, better than most police procedurals, portrays the multiple conflicts within the CID squad itself. Senior CID management looks externally, responding to the demands of the wealthy, the real estate developers, the press and, above all, the budget. Middlemen cops, with no money, no people and no time, struggle to do actual police work. Midst a sea of overflowing paperwork, unsavory deals are struck, questionable priorities rise to the top, and short cuts are taken. For the CID, the hours are long, personal satisfactions rare, and getting reprimanded by management is as likely as getting wounded by a criminal. The stresses and conflicts of everyday life as a cop are keenly observed and made frustratingly real in Hurley's writing. Faraday embodies the harsh realities of policing - like a log roller trying to stay afloat, his feet and legs move fast and furiously, but he maintains a level and steady demeanor from the top.

To expansive to be hard-boiled, too unaffected to be poetic, Hurley's prose is straightforward, descriptive and very low key. The plots are well developed and thoroughly believable, with enough twists and surprises to hold interest. The narratives jump from plot to plot quickly enough to maintain pace, but not so abruptly as to be jarring. Hurley's primary characters are detailed, well rounded and accessible, if somewhat lacking in resonance. If you need violence, grit and toughness, or need a dash of wit or humor, look elsewhere. Set apart by a keenly described sense of place, these books are grimly real, but decidedly understated.