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Author Topic: "Flesh & Blood" by John Harvey  (Read 24671 times)
Clair
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« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2007 »

I'm with you, Norby -- I felt sad for Shane, but didn't find him particularly sympathetic.  Frank Elder's a great character, and I actually wished we hadn't spent quite so much time with Shane.  I didn't need the details of Shane's relationship with McKiernan, particularly since that relationship wound up being irrelevant to all the central mysteries of the book: Susan's disappearance, Emma's murder and Katherine's kidnapping.  It was Frank's story, I felt, and I begrudged the time spent away from Frank. 

It's always interesting to see how themes emerge.  The one that struck me here was the relationship between daughters and parents, and the question of who's obligated to whom, and how: Susan and her parents, Katherine and hers, even Angel and her foster mother.  If Mr. Harvey does check in here, I'd love to know whether that was deliberate, or something that just worked its way out through the story.
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norby
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« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2007 »

Interesting point Clair about daughters and parents.  I never really picked up on anything like that.  I wonder though if I missed it because of my own relationship with my parents.  I've always tried very hard to be independent and be seen as separate from them (part of growing up in a community where I was always referred to as so and so's daughter).  I've always tried to distance myself from them, so I guess I don't often see what may be obvious about another woman's relationship with her parents.

It's also interesting that you and I, the Americans on the forum, aren't sympathetic towards Shane while everyone else seems to be.  Do you think it has anything to do with cultural background, or is it just a coincidence?  Are we Americans really that much less forgiving?
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Clair
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« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2007 »

Yikes, Norby!  I'm so used to feeling the need to defend my Americanness (daughter goes to college in Canada, boyfriend's a British expat) that I don't even want to think about it.   But you might be right -- maybe we just get so many more of these cases here that we're suffering compassion fatigue.

Then again, I just saw "Longford," a BBC film about Lord Longford's efforts to win clemency for Myra Hindley -- who was involved in a series of rape-murders similar to the ones described here -- and it certainly didn't seem as if the UK is sympathetic to violent criminals, as a rule. 

But that would be another question for Mr. Harvey: was he thinking about the Ian Brady-Myra Hindley murders when writing this book, and does the exploration of Shane's character have anything to do with any opinions he might have about that case?
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norby
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« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2007 »

Yikes, Norby!  I'm so used to feeling the need to defend my Americanness (daughter goes to college in Canada, boyfriend's a British expat) that I don't even want to think about it.   But you might be right -- maybe we just get so many more of these cases here that we're suffering compassion fatigue.

Then again, I just saw "Longford," a BBC film about Lord Longford's efforts to win clemency for Myra Hindley -- who was involved in a series of rape-murders similar to the ones described here -- and it certainly didn't seem as if the UK is sympathetic to violent criminals, as a rule. 
But that would be another question for Mr. Harvey: was he thinking about the Ian Brady-Myra Hindley murders when writing this book, and does the exploration of Shane's character have anything to do with any opinions he might have about that case?

I watched that too-pretty good wasn't it.  I know what you mean about having to defend being an American.

What I wonder, and this is something that perhaps our fellow forumites could chime in on, is if accused criminals in Britain are as quick to blame their terrible childhood experiences as American defendants seem to be.  If Shane Donald had been tried in the States his attorney would immediately have brought up his horrible family as a reason for finding him not guilty.  I think that Americans are finally becoming tired of that defense having realized that past trauma doesn't necessarily make for a good excuse for raping or killing someone.  Not to mention that because each state decides it's own policy on the death penalty we've seen that difficult decision played out on the news repeatedly over the years as state after state has had to review it's cases.  Not that we're any smarter or more superior about our justice system than other countries, but with fifty states acting independently and instant media coverage of every breath a defendant takes, we have had to give it a lot of thought.
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Sonia
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« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2007 »

Must say sorry for the moment, because I haven't finished the book yet. So I will post my comments later on, this week hopefully. Will also refrain from reading this thread, as there might be spoilers. Wink

So far I can safely say though: the book is well-written and interesting, but I was a bit disappointed that it didn't grip me as thoroughly as the Resnick series did. Maybe it was the fact that there is reference to an old crime back in the past, and its influences on the present. I realize that also in other books such storylines don't appeal too much to me. That's why I probably need so much time to finish it. But I will.
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rockrebel
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« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2007 »





What I wonder, and this is something that perhaps our fellow forumites could chime in on, is if accused criminals in Britain are as quick to blame their terrible childhood experiences as American defendants seem to be.  If Shane Donald had been tried in the States his attorney would immediately have brought up his horrible family as a reason for finding him not guilty. 

That's just it Norby, it's more a case of lawyers using a defendant's background than the defendant himself. Someone as backward as Shane Donald wouldn't realise how different his background was, compared to most people. Unwanted and unloved as a child then the only friend he had in adolescence was the evil Mc Kiernon. Then confined to a penal institution from 16 to 30. The kid never had a chance to learn what constitutes normal behaviour or to learn the social skills that most of us take for granted. As for Brady and Hindley, they were adults and knew exactly what they were doing. That's different. IMO
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Mary
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« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2007 »

Oops - I meant to say that it was Susan's mother that I felt sorry for (not Susan).  I can understand that, as a typical selfish teenager, Susan may not have realised the devastating effect her disappearance would have on her mother, but if she had any backbone she would have made contact when she was a bit older and wiser.
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Sonia J
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« Reply #22 on: February 27, 2007 »

I disagree with the idea that Susan didn't know what she was doing as such.At 15 she would have known that her actions would have had huge ramifications even if she wasn't exactly sure what.In my opinion she did it partly because the grass is always greener but I think she also wanted to punish her mother for keeping the truth from her.Having said that I do understand how trapped she felt when she realised how big a story her disappearance became back home.That is when her youthful inexperience showed in not being able to deal with the situation she had created.
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tzara
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« Reply #23 on: February 27, 2007 »

I disagree with the idea that Susan didn't know what she was doing as such.At 15 she would have known that her actions would have had huge ramifications even if she wasn't exactly sure what.In my opinion she did it partly because the grass is always greener but I think she also wanted to punish her mother for keeping the truth from her.Having said that I do understand how trapped she felt when she realised how big a story her disappearance became back home.That is when her youthful inexperience showed in not being able to deal with the situation she had created.

I agree 100% with Leigh on this, of course she would have realised what the consequences of her dissapearing would be, she was 15 not 5....

On the subject about lawyers using deprived/depraved childhood experiences in their clients defence, obviously this tactic is used to get the sympathy vote in the hope the defence lawyer wins his case, all he is really interested in. Sadly SOME people are so emotionally damaged in childhood that they never attain 'adulthood' they get stuck in child, unable to rationalise or make choices an adult is able to. Sorry about capitals but want to emphasise only 'some' people.

Others learn from their experiences to be manipulative in order to get their own way or just survive, others learn how to be cruel and so on. The nature vs nurture debate continues...who knows what goes on in each individuals mind?

Well John your book has certainly opened up an interesting thought provoking discussion here, says it all...
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betty
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« Reply #24 on: February 27, 2007 »

I agree with you Marie, it's an ongoing debate - usually I'm quick in with string 'em up - but no doubt as you say SOME people are truly emotionally and mentally damaged in childhood.  Still after thinking about Shane since I've read the book and read the comments I think that maybe he just couldn't be bother to try and manage his emotional swings if it wasn't to his advantage.  If I remember rightly the crime he committed since leaving prison was leaving the half way house until he attached Angel's foster mother.  The problem I image, not having first hand knowledge of it, is once you've been in prison you feel you have to stand up for yourself so snitching on the lads who attacked him in the half way house wasn't an option.  Would he have found an excuse to leave anyway?
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Rock chick
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« Reply #25 on: February 27, 2007 »


But that would be another question for Mr. Harvey: was he thinking about the Ian Brady-Myra Hindley murders when writing this book, and does the exploration of Shane's character have anything to do with any opinions he might have about that case?

Interesting echoes, Clair - 'Flesh and Blood' reminded me of Val McDermid's ' A Place of Execution' which gave a serious nod to the Moors Murders, and was set in the same era.

I too felt a certain amount of sympathy for Shane - more for him as a powerless youngster than the adult he became. Although everyone's background has a profound effect on the people we become, at some stage, we all have to take responsibility for ourselves. I do agree with RR's comment that Shane hadn't really had any of the normal opportunities to grow up and mature, though.

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Derrin
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« Reply #26 on: February 27, 2007 »

This was the first John Harvey book I've read. I really enjoyed Flesh and Blood.

Like quite a few of you, I felt a little sorry for Shane Donald. Alan McKeirnan was a horrible character but I can kind of understand why Shane stayed with him. After Shanes childhood full of abuse, McKeirnan took him under his wing. Even though McKeirnan abused Shane himself, he also looked after him.

I think it's important for a book to grip its reader and this book gripped me. Especially Katherines disappearance.

The Susan Blacklock twist at the end was great. I really didn't expect it.

I'll definately read more of John Harveys work.
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Sonia
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« Reply #27 on: February 27, 2007 »

Ok, finished the book now. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my enthusiasm I built up during the Resnick series. From the start I didn't really like the way Frank Elder behaved in his relation to his family. Especially with his daughter. Granted, he had horror-visions of rape and murder on his mind, because he saw so much during his police-years. But he was a bit too un-tolerant for the teenage-behaviour. (letting her have boyfriends, or staying out)

This discussion with the teacher was really topping it. He felt so narrow-minded to me (cf. his idea that an elder man and younger girl must be abusive relationship, never love). It's so hypocritical. In his opinion, if a teacher and a 17 year old pupil fall in love it would be rape. But 3 months later, when she is 18 and left school, so he wouldn't be her teacher anymore, then it would be fine ? There's something wrong there, in my opinion. I felt more sympathy for the teacher.

As for Shane, all right, he had a bad childhood, but I think it's too easy to blame the childhood for everything one does later. Many other people also have bad upbringing, but they try to make their life better in spite of it. So it's just a matter of strong-will to overcome it. And Shane didn't have that. So no, I did not feel sympathy for him either.

And then Susan Blacklock. I could not believe that she would just run off like that without telling anyone. That was a horrible thing to do to her mother and those that cared. She was almost the worst person in this book, in my opinion.

All in all, my failure to find even one character with whom I could wholeheartedly agree, probably is at the root that I didn't enjoy the book much. Sorry, I just read the other replies, you all seem to have thoroughly enjoyed it. But for me to enjoy a read I need to have at least one focus person I can really identify with. And this book didn't have one.

The Resnick series are still one of my favourite detective series, so it can't be that I don't like John Harvey's writing. My failure to like it really doesn't have anything to do with the style or the story. But plainly with the characters. So I probably won't read the other Elder books.
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Stuart MacBride
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« Reply #28 on: February 27, 2007 »

In his opinion, if a teacher and a 17 year old pupil fall in love it would be rape. But 3 months later, when she is 18 and left school, so he wouldn't be her teacher anymore, then it would be fine ?

I think in his eyes, yes: it would be. Elder would see that kind of thing as an abuse of power.
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Mark
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« Reply #29 on: February 27, 2007 »

Just to say that John has already been on to have a look and is delighted with the interest and with some of the points raised. He's having an incredibly hectic day, but will be posting either last thing tonight or first thing tomorrow, so please check back in to find out what the author himself thinks!

Mark
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