Saturday, June 13, 2015

Gravetapping: BROUGHT IN DEAD by Harry Patterson (Jack Higgins)

Posted: 13 Jun 2015 09:42 AM PDT
Review by Ben Boulden

Brought in Dead is the twentieth novel published by Harry Patterson, and the second to feature Detective Sergeant Nick Miller. It was originally released in the U. K. as a hardcover by John Long in 1967. It is a police procedural that is hijacked by what is seemingly a secondary character, at least early in the story, and twists itself into straight revenge.

Detective Sergeant Nick Miller isn’t an ordinary policeman. He is independently wealthy, thanks to his brother’s television business, drives a Mini-Cooper, and graduated from the University of London. He is also coarse, and frankly, not the most likable of Mr. Patterson’s protagonists; although he is less disagreeable here than he was in his debut novel, The Graveyard Shift

It begins with the suicide of a young woman who drowned herself, and took extraordinary steps to conceal her identity. She carries no identification, and the identifying tags are torn from her clothing. She is also a recent addict. Her arms have several fresh needle marks, and the pathologist discovers a small amount of heroin and cocaine in her blood. She is, once Miller identifies her, the girlfriend of a local gangster and the daughter of a respected businessman.

Miller is certain it is murder—the dead woman’s boyfriend, Max Vernon, who owns a high end betting parlor and several other less savory rackets, is the primary suspect, but when a witness changes her story at the Coroner’s Court the death is officially ruled a suicide. This is where the novel shifts from a police procedural to a revenge novel. The primary character also shifts, from Nick Miller to the dead girl’s father, Duncan Craig. Craig is the managing director of a successful electronics company, and a former military man who vows to destroy Vernon.

Brought in Dead is an interesting novel. It is rightly a Nick Miller procedural, but the story belongs to Duncan Craig. Craig is the central player in the second half of the novel, and he is also the most interesting. He uses an impressive array of electronic eavesdropping equipment to identify Vernon’s business assets, and then systematically destroys each. As I read the novel I found myself wondering why the entire story wasn’t told from his perspective. It would have been better for it.

The strengths of the novel, as always with Mr. Patterson, are the strong plotting, the precise, stark prose, and the lightning quickness of the story. It features many of the same players as the original Nick Miller novel, The Graveyard Shift, including Jazz pianist and heroin addict Chuck Lazer, Detective Superintendent Bruce Grant, and Detective Constable Jack Brady. It isn’t in the top tier of Harry Patterson’s work, but it is an entertaining and satisfying novel. 

I also learned a nice piece of slang—“snout” was used by the police to describe an informer. Now if I could find a use for it in my everyday parlance.

Also from Ben Boulden:

Posted: 12 Jun 2015 10:05 AM PDT
“Sometimes it seemed to her that to be held tightly and kissed was the secret to life, and then a new impulse came and she was terribly afraid.”

—Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio: “Surrender, Part Three”. Library of America edition, 2012; page 59.  

No Comment is a new series of posts featuring passages from both fiction and non-fiction that caught my attention. It may be the idea, the texture, or the presence that grabbed my eye. There is no analysis provided, and it invariably is out of context—since the paragraph before and after are never included.

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