Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Rapid Reviews: Cutting Edge by John Harvey

I'd previously read just one novel by John Harvey and that was 2014's Darkness, Darkness - the final novel in the 13-book series featuring his hero Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick. That novel concerned a cold case mystery left unresolved from the days of the miners strike of 1984/'85. It was OK, a readable affair, but I felt I needed to have experienced Resnick before to have perhaps fully appreciated it. 

So I went back to 1991 and book 3 in the series, Cutting Edge which I recommend. 

A savage assault with a scalpel leaves Dr Tim Fletcher's body badly slashed in a deserted hospital walkway - the first victim in a series of brutal assaults on NHS staff in Nottingham. As panic grips the city, it's up to DI Resnick to find the killer. His chief suspect appears to be an over confident, sexually abusive medical student who had previously dated Fletcher's girlfriend - but is he and his team letting their dislike for the man clouding their judgement? Faced with a mass of clues that lead nowhere, Resnick is confronted by a face from his own past as he finds himself pushed to breaking point.

I really enjoyed this one and have come to like Resnick, the sandwich eating, multiple cat owning and jazz loving troubled 'tec. So much so that I went on to ioffer and bought a DVD of the BBC's sole attempts at adapting Harvey's novels (Lonely Hearts and Rough Treatment, books 1 and 2 in the series) starring Tom Wilkinson in the role and dating back to the early '90s.

Cutting Edge is an engrossing read full of lovely little details that play out on the periphery of the main crime; there's a handful of other investigations Resnick's team are currently looking into, and then there's their home lives too with one of his detective constable's struggling with a wife suffering from post natal depression, and Resnick himself finding himself putting up a drunken down and out acquaintance based on their mutual love for jazz. In tackling these various strands Harvey's style is quite fragmentary at times but it's never alienating or difficult in its approach. Without giving anything away, a turning point of the plot concerns a medical phenomena that is rarely spoken of and quite terrifying to consider!

But if reading Cutting Edge isn't appealing to you, you could always try listening to this enjoyable full-cast adaptation for Radio 4 dating back to 1996 and starring Tom Georgeson as Resnick, a young John Simm as Tim Fletcher and  Gillian Bevan who plays staff nurse Sarah Leonard and also provides the chanteuse torch song style vocals to the play's theme tune.

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