Vacuum has drug dealer Mansel Shale finding religion and stepping back from (though not abandoning) his trade in his grief over the shooting deaths of his wife and son. Manic ACC Desmond Iles and scheming DCS Colin Harpur worry about solving the crime. More than that, they wonder whether Shale's retreat will shatter the fragile peace with rival dealer Ralph Ember and bring chaos to the streets.
That's the story through the first three-plus chapters. As usual with James, though, the real pleasure is the dark, rich, sometimes very funny prose. Here's a sample:
"This pair had to deliver peace on the streets and preserve it: no turf fights, no drive-by salvoes to hail the New Year and/or mark the Queen's official birthday, no domestic torchings, no body-part severances or desocketed eyes. Desocketed eyes really riled Iles. `Desocketed eyes get up my nose,' he'd told Harpur a while ago."The opening chapters have a bit more of a contemporary edge than other recent books in the series; James' half-mocking portrayal of the rival drug gangs in terms straight off the business page is more acidic than usual, and the author has not neglected the times in which he writes:
"People had less money, yes. As a result, many prioritized their spending more ruthlessly than before, went with absolute, steely dedication for the essentials. That is, they lashed out generously on stuff which would for a while blur the crisis pain and complement their Jobseeker's Allowance, although, of course, it ate into their Jobseeker's Allowance, because prices of the commodities stayed high on account of this increased demand."So my early verdict is that Vacuum may turn out to be one of the stronger recent entries in the series.
"abandoned British crime years ago except for Bill James, who I love. ... His Iles and Harpur series is magnificent."or Tim Hallinan, who wrote that
"If I were told I could only read five writers for the remainder of my life, and I had to name them at that moment, both Bill James and Anthony Powell would be on the list."Here's a checklist of the Harpur and Iles novels. While deciding which ones to look for, read my 2009 interview with Bill James, Part I and Part II.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012