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Good Literature for Children & Adults

Lonely Hearts By John Harvey

lonely-hearts-by-john-harveyEach summer we choose the books we most enjoyed during the past year to recommend to our customers. This year the mystery writer we will most recommend is John Harvey. Some readers might remember John Harvey's Charlie Resnick series. They had been out of print for many years and have now all been re-issued. Starting with Lonely Hearts, first published in 1989, the series became 10 books written over the following 10 years. John Harvey is a prolific writer of crime fiction and poetry, and has just been awarded the 2007 Diamond Dagger Award, awarded for sustained excellence in the field of crime writing. Previous winners include P.D. James, John LeCarre, Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter and Ian Rankin.

I read the John Harvey novels the first time around, was sorry to see them go out of print, and am very pleased to see that they have all been re-issued this year. I found my old copy of Lonely Hearts on the cottage bookshelf and read it again – just to be sure it was as good as I remembered – and it was. On a sunny Sunday I sat on the deck and read this mystery novel. I put aside the more literary novel I was reading until I had finished Lonely Hearts.

John Harvey is a master of the genre – in the first three and a half pages the suspense for the whole novel is set. We are introduced to Charlie Resnick and his four cats - Dizzy, Miles, Pepper and Bud, and this reader is hooked. In those few pages I already knew I was going to be entertained and drawn out of my own world into the life of Charlie Resnick.

I am very much looking forward to more sunny days on the deck with the rest of this series.

John Harvey, himself, talks about the series - "Let me talk a bit about the way Resnick came about. I was going to write this book; at the time, only this one book. I knew I wanted a police character, and I had a physical sense of him. I saw him walking down the hill from a police station towards the centre of the city.

"He was big and bulky, and he was wearing this shabby raincoat, a bit like Jim Rockford who went to Columbo's tailor. I never saw his face. I wanted him to be believable as an ordinary policeman, but I also wanted to be able to give him some interesting characteristics. That was when I hit on the Polish idea.

With a Polish background he would have been brought up in two cultures, speaking English at school and Polish at home. I could lay all his oddities at the door of his Polishness.

"Buying the stuff at the Polish deli, making all of the sandwiches, the romanticism and the jazz, the way those things go together, has something to do with his Polishness.

"His compassion is part of his upbringing as well. The key was when I hit on the name.

"The name Resnick was good for an English reader, because you know the English are very bad with foreign names, but anybody in England can pronounce Resnick.

Then I hit on Charlie and Charlie sounds so matter of fact, down to earth. Charlie is the Nottingham/English side of him, and Resnick the slightly foreign/European, slightly different sense of him. Then slowly I began to find out more about him, and still I'm finding things out about him."

Lonely Hearts is the first novel in the series, and a good place to start. Resnick is investigating a series of break-in's when one of his officers comes across the body of a woman, murdered in her home. When this murder is followed by another, with similar in circumstances, the search is on for a connection – and is found in the Lonely Hearts column of the local newspaper. Charlie Resnick himself has lived alone and can understand the need these people feel to find someone to share their lives. Woven into all of this is a very satisfying cast of characters who make up Resnick's professional life, the officers who work for him and his superior officers. In this novel Charlie finds himself very attracted to a social worker, Rachel Chaplin, with whom he has had a good professional relationship – one he would like to make personal. Now I've already given too much away. This a mystery novel after all, and I don't want to tell too much of the story. If you are a fan of the mystery novels of Peter Robinson, Colin Dexter and the like, I can guarantee that John Harvey will please you as well.

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