Monday, January 12, 2015

Borrowed Light by Graham Hurley: A review

Borrowed LightBorrowed Light by Graham Hurley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the late summer of 2009, D.I. Joe Faraday and his partner, the French anthropologist Gabrielle, are on a birding holiday in the Middle East. It is one of the happiest times that Faraday can remember.

After a day trip of birding with a young guide, Faraday and Gabrielle are on their way back to their hotel with their guide driving the car. A moment of inattention by the driver leads to a near collision with a big truck and he swerves to avoid the head-on smash. And instead hits a tree. Neither the driver nor Faraday, also in the front seat, had bothered to put on their seat belts. The driver was crushed against the steering wheel and died. Faraday was thrown through the windshield and suffered severe head injuries. Gabrielle, in the back seat and with her seat belt on, suffered only minor injuries.

From that fateful day forward, it seems that Joe Faraday's life is in a downward spiral. He is taken to a hospital which is shortly overwhelmed by those who have been injured in one of Israel's periodic assaults against Gaza. Many of the maimed are children, including a five-year-old girl name Leila. She is severely burned by phosphorus and her survival is in doubt. Gabrielle, spending much of her time at the hospital with Joe, sees the little girl and becomes obsessed with her. She apparently has no family - they may have all been killed in the attack - and Gabrielle wants to become the girl's family.

Eventually, Faraday is cleared to returned to England, but Gabrielle stays on to care for Leila.

Back in England, Faraday is unable to return to work at first, but finally does so. However, he is a changed man and his second-in-command Jimmy Suttle, a detective who was trained by Paul Winter and is still close to him, worries that his boss may no longer be up to the job. That becomes a major concern when an investigation of a  house fire discloses four dead bodies, all of whom had been shot and killed before the fire started. Behind the burned house is a recently dug hole that seems to have been hiding something. What? Speculation focuses on a large quantity of cocaine. Faraday and his team are charged with finding the answers.

Meanwhile, Pompey crime lord Bazza Mckenzie, nemesis of the police in general and Faraday in particular, has gone legit - well, mostly anyway. And former D.S. Paul Winter is still working for him but is beginning to have serious second thoughts about the relationship. Although he has been made part of the "family," he is more and more uncomfortable with his role.

McKenzie has ambitions to get into politics. In fact, he has plans to run for mayor of Portsmouth! He's spending his time romancing journalists, trying to publicize himself and his "good works" as a precursor to a mayoral campaign.

But, wait. What about those four dead bodies? What is their connection to McKenzie? What about that big hole behind the house? Who did the presumably large quantity of cocaine that had been buried in the hole belong to? Is it significant that the man who lived in the house was an associate of Bazza McKenzie? And is it significant that that man has now disappeared without a trace, along with the cocaine? All questions that haunt Paul Winter and that impel him to contact Jimmy Suttle for a conversation, possibly aimed at finding a way out of the McKenzie orbit.

All in all, this is a downer of a story, as one of the major characters, Joe Faraday, deteriorates throughout, and as the other major character, Paul Winter, is conflicted and seemingly at a crossroads in his life. By the end of the book, it is still unclear which direction he will take. Meantime, Winter's protege, Suttle, plays a larger role in this story and seems poised to become a major character when (and if) this series continues.


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