A well-dressed corpse found shot in the sand and gravel wharf sparks trouble for Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur and his unpredictable boss, Assistant Chief Constable Iles.
The man is found dead in the local dockyard, shot from behind. Colin Harpur, examining the impeccably dressed corpse on his hands and knees, predicts the execution spells imminent trouble – and not just the unexpected arrival of his spiteful, brilliant boss, ACC Iles, at the two a.m. slaughter scene.
Iles' progressive attitude towards the local drugs trade has kept gang warfare off the streets, but now it seems jealous outsiders may be coveting the safe, ordered community he has so brilliantly created. Coveting too, the local property – for instance, drug lord Ralph Ember's luxurious mansion, Low Pastures, home to his unparalleled collection of china and porcelain.
Harpur and Iles are determined to protect their set-up at all costs – which includes protecting 'Panicking' Ralph. But Ralph has his own plans, and there are dark rumours about Iles on the wind . . .
Blackly humorous, delightfully eccentric and packed with sharp-tongued wit, this gritty British police procedural is a must-read for fans of Bill James' critically acclaimed long-running Harpur and Iles series.
A Note From the Publisher
Average rating from 8 members
Bill James is a veteran of the British crime writing scene and Low Pastures is the 36th entry in his quirky, long running series about Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur and his unpredictable boss, Assistant Chief Constable Iles.
The discovery of a well-dressed corpse, killed in execution style at a local dockyard, signals trouble for Iles’s progressive attitude towards the local drugs trade. Iles has long had an unspoken gentleman’s agreement with the two main local players, Manse Shale and Ralph Ember, which has seen Iles and the rest of the police force turning a blind eye to their activities, as long as Manse and Ralph keep violence off the streets. It has been a successful approach for all concerned, but now it seems that jealous outsiders may be coveting the safe, ordered community Iles has so brilliantly created.
Low Pastures goes down the same well trodden streets as the earlier entries in the series, with a heady mixture of witty, unlikely dialogue and plenty of amusing asides. As much a social commentary as a crime novel, James nicely skewers modern society and the pretensions of his criminals who are trying to lift their social standing:
“[Ralph Ember reflects]: The right schooling (for his daughters) was a matter of proper status, part of the overall social rating. Most probably the school had a scarf with its colours on so in the winter at least anyone in the know could tell if a child had been to Roedean and was certain to have good table manners.”
What I particularly liked: Ralph Embers’ pretentiousness and his belief in his idealised self image is hilarious, and Harpur’s precocious, too old for their ages, teenage daughters are always a delight.
What I was less keen on: the pace is slow and Low Pastures is really a repeat of earlier books in the series, which has not progressed in recent years.
This incredibly is the 35th book featuring Ast. Chief Constable Desmond Isles and Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur. The fictitious area they police is supposedly on the south west coast. Bristol springs to mind or because the author lives in Wales - perhaps Cardiff? Exactly where the author has placed it is his secret, and mostly the area is just that - how he imagines it.
The author is well into his 90 years now and it is a testament to him that he still wants the story to continue. I've never read any of the author's books before so have no knowledge of the storyline history.
I soon realised that there was some antagonism from Iles to Harpur, because the latter had an affair with Iles's wife Sara.
There are very few people in the book. Besides the two policemen (there are only occasional references to lower ranks!) there are two local wealthy villains - Ralph Ember and his outspoken wife Margaret and Manse Shale.
Harpur's wife was apparently murdered in a previous book. He is in a relationship with Denise a young university student. Harpur has two teenage daughters Hazel and Jill who keep him grounded.
The book opens with a murdered man found at the river wharf. Isles is keen to seek promotion to a Chief Constable post in another area. This has a reaction amongst the neighbouring villains who may try and take over Ember and Shale's patch. The writing is very detailed with conversations covering many pages. This verbosity is obviously a trait of the author.
I intend reading a much earlier book in the series to see if anything changed over the years.
I thought this was the first in a series and discovered it's the 35th. And I loved it because there's a lot of other books featuring these characters.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and I was fascinated and hooked since the first pages. Everything seemed very weird and funny and I loved these quirky characters and this mystery.
I strongly recommend it even if I suppose I would have loved it even more if I had read some of the previous novels.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Laced With Dry Humour…
The thirty sixth (no less) in the Harpur and Iles Mystery series and a corpse spells consternation for the detective duo. Who has invaded their carefully kept locale and exactly who do they need to protect this time? With a cast of deftly drawn characters and an entertaining narrative laced with dry humour, this is a fitting addition to the series.