PAY DAYS by Bill James
A HARPUR & ILES MYSTERY
W. W. Norton & Company 2001
Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur and Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles are living with the consequences of their decisions--to allow local criminals to monopolize their city's drug trade without resistance. Although Iles goal of reducing violence in the streets has been achieved, drug money corruption may have entered the police department as Chief Inspector Nivette is clearly taking money from the local mob. Is his completely corrupt, or has he gone underground in an unauthorized attempt to overthrow the mob that Iles tacitly supports? When Chief Constable Mark Lane orders an all-out war on the mob led by Nivette, Harpur and Iles have to head him off.
Panicking Ralph Ember and Mansel Shale have taken over a syndicate that brings in hundreds of thousands of pounds, sterling, but their partnership is shaky. Neither trusts the others and Shale's lieutenants are even less trustworthy. When one of their pushers is found killed, the principals themselves have to move to prevent discovery, to ensure that Iles does not decide that they have broken the tacit agreement to keep peace on the streets.
Once again, author Bill James (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by James) has written a deeply insightful look into the all-too-similar minds of criminal and police. The narrow line between active policing and corruption, shown explicitly by Nivette's double pay-days, is more broadly portrayed by the conflict between Lane and Iles. Iles himself is an attractive but disturbing character willing to pursue his goals no matter what the cost. Harpur has developed into a richer character himself, willing to take chances against both Iles and Lane where he must to protect the police force and to do what he believes is right.
PAY DAYS, like many of the Harpur and Iles series, is doubly effective because of James's deft but light touch with language. Even while I was horrified by Iles, I found myself laughing at his bitter humor. Like the best of this series, PAY DAYS disturbs, makes you think, and is difficult to put down.
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