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    Review of IN THE ABSENCE OF ILES by Bill James


    Countryman Press, January 2010

    Unable to get evidence on a criminal gang, Assistant Chief Constable Ester Davidson attends a seminar on 'out-placement' (placing undercover police within criminal organizations). ACC Desmond Iles had lost his own undercover operatives, but Iles doesn't attend the seminar. Davidson decides to go ahead with the out-placement...with disastrous results.

    IN THE ABSENSE OF ILES traces Davidson's plan, her religious adherence to the recommendations made at the seminar, her interference with her deputy responsible for running the operation, and ultimately with the murder trial flowing from the failed operation. Iles pops into the picture from time to time, expressing his own angry sympathy and frustration.

    Although this book is considered part of Bill James's (see more reviews of mysteries by James) Harpur and Iles series, Iles plays only a small role and Harpur no role at all leaving the far less interesting Ester Davidson to carry the weight. Overall, she doesn't do a bad job. She wrestles with her conscience, second-guesses herself, deals with her failing basoon-playing husband, and hopes against hope that the legal system will provide some redress to the murder of her agent.

    James writes a consistently dark mystery, with the police often unable to defeat the criminals they're charged with countering, with the line between police and criminal often blurred, and with failable characters failing badly. IN THE ABSENCE OF ILES falls into this pattern although we don't get the amount of exposure into the criminal gangs themselves that I'm used to.

    IN THE ABSENCE OF ILES is an enjoyable although not critical addition to the Harpur and Iles canon.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 5/12/10

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