Review: Body & Soul by John Harvey
Body & Soul by John Harvey is the 4th mystery featuring ex-D.I. turned Private Eye Frank Elder.
Shame on me for not getting to this series sooner. Body and Soul is John Harvey’s fourth and final book to feature ex-D.I. Frank Elder, and gosh it’s great. At the open, Frank is spending his time puttering around his Cornwall cottage, assisting the local coppers every now and then with cases, and romancing a beautiful local blues singer named Vickie. When his 23-year-old daughter, Katherine, shows up on his doorstep with bandages on her wrists, Frank is glad to see her, but she’s quiet and withdrawn, and Frank is afraid to push lest he scares her away. After a brief flare of temper on Katherine’s part, they call a truce and enjoy their evening, but Katherine leaves in the morning after a night of nightmares that caused her to wake screaming.
These nightmares are nothing new to Frank. When Katherine was only 16, she was kidnapped, held captive, and raped by a man named Adam Keach. Frank was the one who found his battered daughter. Adam is in jail now, but the nightmare never really ended for Katherine, although she’s desperately tried to get on with her life. In London, Katherine has been living in a flat share and working as an artist’s model, most recently for mercurial, famed artist Anthony Winter. The modeling led to more, and it’s only been a few months since Anthony ended the relationship with Katherine. It sent her into a spiral, and Frank is worried.
Harvey gives us glimpses of how Anthony and Katherine’s relationship progressed, and it sketches an unflattering picture of Anthony, a man who seems to think nothing of taking advantage of his young models, and, Katherine’s horrible past. Only the worst sort of person would do that, an impression of Anthony that is borne out later in the novel.
One particular scene is chilling:
The new pose had Katherine standing side on, the upper half of the body angled back toward the artist, the viewer, at the waist, both arms raised high above the head.
“Your arms. You think you can hold them in that position?”
It wasn’t long before the muscles at the backs of her calves, her thighs, were tight and there was a pain like a stitch, but not a stitch, in the small of her back where she was forced to turn. Her arms were starting to shake and drift apart.
“Here, look. Maybe this will help.”
Winter looped one of the pieces of rag he’d been using to clean his brushes around her wrists and tied them loosely together in a knot.
When he stepped away, his arm accidentally brushed against her breast.
After another thirty minutes she started to sway and then, without further warning, her knees gave way and she collapsed to the floor.
When Frank makes an ill-considered visit to an exhibit of Anthony’s work, he’s less than thrilled, to say the least.
Elder made his way towards the other end of the gallery and turned into the foot of the L.
A single canvas, bigger than the rest, hung spotlit on the far wall. At the centre, Katherine stood naked, her body twisted sharply at the waist; hands raised high above her head, her wrists manacled, chains holding her arms aloft.
Elder was finding it difficult to breathe.
Kate’s face staring down at him, the pain alive in her eyes.
He knew that look; recognized that pain.
Confronted with the artist, Elder can’t help himself. He beats the crap out of Winter and makes a hasty retreat, but not before taking a few licks himself. The incident, and the timing, is unfortunate because soon after, Winter is found bludgeoned to death on the floor of his studio, a length of chain presumed to be the murder weapon nearby. Luckily, Elder has an alibi, but Katherine doesn’t, and when CCTV footage shows someone that looks an awful lot like Katherine near the home at the time of the murder, she officially becomes a suspect. Elder knows she didn’t kill Winter but proving her innocence won’t be easy.
If you think things can’t get much worse for Katherine and Frank, think again. Soon after Winter is killed, Adam Keach, the man who tortured and nearly killed Katherine, escaped prison during a transfer and is back to his old tricks. Elder is terrified that he’ll come after Katherine and finish what he started, and he’ll do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Harvey’s lean prose and fast pace keep the pages turning, and even if you haven’t read the first three books in the series, it’s quite easy to become fully invested in these characters without feeling like you’re missing something. A few terrifying twists up the stakes and a shocking finale will have readers reeling. Procedural fans with a soft spot for P.I. tales will love this, but a father’s love and a young woman trying desperately to crawl out of the darkness and into the light are at the heart of this crackling tale.