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Author Topic: "Flesh & Blood" by John Harvey  (Read 24652 times)
Mark
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« on: February 26, 2007 »

Sorry this is up a bit late, but I'm sure you'll all make up for lost time.

This was the first of three books to feature Frank Elder and I've made no secret of my admiration for it. I think that John writes with an enviable elegance and manages to make the whole thing look effortless. It won the CWA Silver Dagger and in my opinion should have won the gold.

Anyway, over to you lot...

Mark
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2007 »

Speaking of late, I was up until the wee hours this morning finishing Flesh & Blood!

I have to say that I was in a bit of a rut with my crime reading and I found Flesh & Blood to be a refreshing read. 

The characters were strong, likeable and the language used for them rang especially true for me.  Also the plot didn't opt for obvious cop outs.

If I had to say anything negative it would only be the amount of times it seemed Frank Elder was asked if he thought Shane was involved in every scenario going around (just saying) !!

I look forward to catching up with Frank Elder again ...




 
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Sonia J
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2007 »

I loved Flesh and Blood.I went in to it totally blind knowing nothing about the author or this story and after reading it I am surprised to learn this was Frank Elders debut,initially I thought that the familiar way he came across the page to me was because some of his story had already been told but I now realise he was just so well written that I just thought I knew him.
The biggest surprise for me was my own reaction to Shane and his crimes.I actually had sympathy for him which I have rarely felt toward a character of this nature,I'm sure in part that was due to the fact that throughout the book I thought of him as that abused,insecure,impresionable seventeen year old not the grown man he had become.On the other side of the coin I was angry with Susan! I felt sorry for her mother who had gone through all those years of imagining the terrible fate Susan could have met but I was also angry for what she had put me through if that makes sense.She gained my sympathy and worry under false pretences.
The story held enough detail of the crimes to lead you down the right path but not so much that you wanted to double back and take a different route.Easy to read and very enjoyable,I will be reading more or Mr.Harvey's.
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norby
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2007 »

This was the second Frank Elder book I've read (I read Ash & Bone when it came out).  I enjoyed Flesh & Blood, but I need to think a little bit more about what I want to say-I promise not to be quite as long winded as I was with the last book! Wink
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rockrebel
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2007 »

After Mark's enthusiastic endorsement I was really looking forward to this and I wasn't disappointed. I read it in a day because I had to know what happened to Susan. Like Leigh I felt sympathy for Shane. Apart from his sister no one had ever cared for him at all until he met Angel.

John tried hard, I think, to make the reader think that Shane was responsible for the abduction of the girl from the fairground but I honestly never doubted his innocence for one minute.

Shane must have thought all his Christmases had come at once when Angel fell in love with him despite his track record and I shared the devastation he must have felt when she betrayed him. Let's not forget that he only ran away from the bail hostel in the first place because he felt he had no one to trust.
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tzara
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« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2007 »

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, first time I've read one of John's books.

 I especially liked the straight forward approach in his writing, no frills no fancy, economy of words and saying it as it is...especially in the intimate scene between Elder and Helen, very well described.

I warmed to Elder from the opening chapter, he came across as a warm, kind and perceptive man with integrity. He had a lovely relationship with Katherine, and  I really liked how John opened and ended the book with the pair of them being together in St Ives. The description of places Elder visited was spot on, I've been to all but one and could immediately visualise the scene, I was there!

Like Leigh and RR I felt empathy for Shane, and found myself trying to analyse him. But afraid my feelings changed when he beat up Angels foster Mother. I felt so sorry for Helen, how apt that John wrote about her still leaving flowers on the cliff path for Susan, I guess that's how some mothers might cope with a situation like that? I was left wondering how did she feel about her daughter never getting in touch to say she was safe, the betrayal? would  she would ever make any contact with Susan?

Did Shane get just deserts from Keach inside? and did Angel wait for Shane....?

A brilliant read! I've bought In a True Light, Rough Treatment, and Darkness and Light  since finishing F&B and look forward to reading them.
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Rock chick
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2007 »

Having read very little John Harvey, I did really enjoy Flesh and Blood. It’s a good, solid crime novel doing exactly what it says on the tin – good plot, brilliant characters who draw you in immediately, fast-paced (I found my self reading faster and faster towards the end!), beautifully written and very easy to read. Frank Elder is a recognisable, familiar, old school gumshoe, and I mean that in the most complimentary sense -  a man of integrity, intelligent, intuitive, flawed, with a sense of melancholy and isolation – we know him already, and we’re all rooting for him. 

The plot was well constructed, tense and tightly woven, but the storyline and plot devices did put me in mind of other novels – as I was reading it I did find it slightly derivative. However, having checked the timeline, the novels it reminded me of (apart from one – Val McDermid’s ‘A Place of Execution’ 1999) were actually published later than Flesh and Blood, so John’s influence over the genre is clearly felt. Or maybe I just read too much. 

In all, an excellent novel and certainly makes me want to read the rest of John’s work (and he seems to be a prolific writer!). Not startlingly original, in my opinion, but a classic of its type.
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TonyK
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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2007 »

Well, this was a first time I had come across Frank Elder, and also the first time I had read a John Harvey book. Almost from the off, you knew you were in for a great read. In fact I was amazed that this was a debut of a character as he was so well written, so well rounded off, that you felt that there must have been a book or two before hand to flesh ( no pun intended) them out beforehand. Must have been the practice on the Resnick novels I suppose, thus they must also be a good read.

The crime was a shocking one, and seemingly all too common today, and the resolution, though a tad predictable ( especially as the plot kept coming back to this mysterious man), I am sure must also be more common than is discovered ( the optimist in me hopes so). And the kidnap and rape of Elder's daughter was horrific in its unpredictability, and in a way I am wary of reading the follow up as I dread the fall out from that incident isn't going to make easy reading, and that has never happened to me before. The book certainly gave the impression that the investigation isn't always a glamorous ride, and a lot of time is spent going over the same old things, talking to the same old people over and over again in the hope that something different comes out of one further look that gives a clue as to what has happened. This could easily have been written as a boring plod, but the way it was written was exciting even though you could feel the tedium and hopelessness of the characters retreading old ground.

The book was made even more interesting to read as I lived in the Gainsborough/Retford area for many years and many of the places mentioned I have been to, and the description of the pikey funfairs was absolutely spot on. In fact all the descriptive writing was wonderful and you really could see in your mind's eye the locations and the feelings generated.

the only bad, and I want for a better word than bad, thing I found about the book is that the fairly explicit sex scenes in it make it difficult for me to recommend the book to my 76 year old dad!

All in all, a cracker of a read and I certainly will be reading more of Mr Harvey. Well done sir!
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betty
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« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2007 »

Although I've read John's books it's been quite a while and was delighted to start reading him again.  Like the rest of you I loved Flesh and Blood from the first paragraph.  I warmed to Frank and felt sympathy with him on his Divorce from his wife (name escapes me).  I felt the reason he moved to Cornwall was to get away from her even though he misses Katherine.  

In the beginning I did have sympathy for Shane - it was unfortunate that his path crossed McK's in the first place but showed how easy it is for poor Shane to be manipulated.  I thought Angel might make him think differently but when he attacked her foster mother I was quite angry.  I did feel sorry for Angel when Frank couldn't meet her at the gas station - she'd been betrayed enough as it was.  However I never did think Shane had abducted Katherine.  

Also my heart went out to Susan and I think John did a wonderful job with their relationship.  I could cheerfully strangle her daughter myself - what a selfish person - to leave her mother mourning all those years and of course poor Frank had though he failed Susan in the first place by not find either her or her body.

Mind you for a while I suspected her father had a hand in her disappearance and when I learned he was actually her stepfather I was convinced for a while.

My heart went out to Frank when Katherine was abducted - what a terrible thing to happen and to feel you're some way responsible was so hard for him.  I took a total dislike to his wife - I think she know how he feels about her still and she is quite willing to manipulate the situation anyway she can. 

What a wonderful read - looking forward to reading more of John's books.  I agree with Mark - no reason on earth why it shouldn't have won the Gold.  Thanks John.
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chelbel
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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2007 »

I am rushing for the deadline on this one, not finished yet.  Im afraid ive been up the walls with work this month.  I have read John Harveys work before and thoroughly enjoyed, as i am this one.  So i apologise in advance for a delayed opinion.  Sorry guys.  Better go and get stuck in.
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Mary
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« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2007 »

I really enjoyed this one - I've not read anything by John before, but have already added two more of his books to my tbr pile.

I was surprised to find that this was the first book in the Elder series, as Frank came across as an "established" character.  I could really feel for Susan, and didn't anticipate that her daughter was living a new life on the other side of the world.  I thought that maybe the stepfather had done something after all.

I guess I was hoping for a happy ending for Shane and Angel. I thought it was very clever that we were made to feel sympathetic for Shane - he'd turned out like that because he met the wrong person at the wrong time - then he let us down by beating up Angel's foster mother.

Looking forward to reading John's other books.  Thanks for introducing me to another brilliant author! 
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Jez
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« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2007 »

Like many here, this is my first by John Harvey and he has become (yet) another writer whose work I shall try to catch up with. I thought the characterisation was excellent. The portrayal of Elder, particularly, stands out as a terrific example of economy and efficiency. Very easy to identify with and thoroughly sympathetic while retaining a hard edge. Other characters were similarly well drawn and I felt a lot of sympathy for Shane whose behaviour was thoroughly believable despite being reprehensible. The doomed relationship between Shane and Angel was heartbreaking with the incident where he attacks her (still believing McK's sick philosophies) especially well done. As for beating up Angel's foster mum, it served as a bit of a wake up call for me too, reminding me that this was a man steeped in violence and capable of justifying any behaviour if it served his interests.
Found the descriptions of Cornwall accurate and evocative - not familiar with other locations but am assuming that they were similarly well drawn.
The various twists and turns maintained a great pace and I finished the thing in a couple of sittings.
One minor criticism/question, I liked the idea that Elder's daughter is an athlete, I don't want to come across as a pedant but 300 metres?
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Rock chick
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« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2007 »

*waves hello to The Jingo - good place for a first post!*  Grin
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norby
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« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2007 »

Hmm, it's interesting how many found Shane to be a sympathetic character until he beat up Angel's foster mother.  While I felt bad for the way Shane had been treated as a child because no one should have to live like that, I don't find that to be a reason to look at him sympathetically when he's an adult.  When he met Alex McK, he could have walked away.  After all, he had left his family, he knew he was capable of leaving.  

From the beginning Shane lied to his parole officer and the leader of the halfway house, and it wasn't long before his own parole office had doubts about his suitability for parole.  He also saw no reason to have a job, to try and work his way back into society.  Like the rest of you, I never thought that Shane had anything to do with the abduction of the girl, quite frankly he wasn't that intelligent or that motivated.  I wasn't too surprised to find out that Angel's mum was calling the police, or by Shane's reaction.  It's the reaction he would have learned in prison, so it's what he did.  In the end, maybe I'm harsh, but I really didn't have much sympathy for Shane and I though Angel was a fool for sticking with him.

As I stated in my earlier post, this wasn't my first introduction to Frank Elder, and I quite like him myself.  He's human, and I like the relationship he has with his daughter, although the book I read took place after the abduction/attack.  It is interesting that most fictional detectives are single.  Frank doesn't seem to do too badly for himself-um, I don't know that I would call those explicit sex scenes though.  But, to each his own.

As for Susan-I blame her father more than her.  As a teenager (and I think we all know what wise decision makers they can be), she really couldn't have comprehended the impact her actions would have on her mother.  It may never have even occurred to her that people might think she was dead.  Her father though, as an adult, should have realized all of those things.  He should have known how her mother would worry, that people might think she had died.  If an adult has sex with a teenage girl, we say she is innocent because she doesn't fully understand the implications of what she is doing?  Why is this different-did Susan really understand the implications of what she was doing?  

Overall though, I liked the book.  I'll be looking for the third Frank Elder book so I will have read them all.   Wink
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betty
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« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2007 »

Funny you should mention the father - I wasn't too upset he was in a wheel chair - I thought that he surely have either sent Susan a note himeself or encouraged his daughter to do it.  Of course he shouldn't have taken her away with him in the first place - another manipulative person. 

I suppose in regard to Shane - the philosophy of 'a good woman will straighten him out' must have been at the back of my mind - why I can't really say, but I don't think Angel deserved to have to put up with his attitude - she had more than enough grief in her own life herself.

I think it's a book you think about when you have finished it and because Frank is written in such realistic way - he's somebody you wouldn't mind meeting for a coffee or glass of wine. Smiley
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