Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris - Book Review

A good crime novel has an accelerating pace to it. After the setup, the story becomes increasingly convoluted with the complications spreading a web of mis-direction as the protagonist works his way towards finding a solution to the crime. As the story progresses it takes on a life and drive of its own as the situations become more complex and more dangerous. The situation becomes more clear, while the ultimate solution remains just beyond the reader's and the protagonists reach. Relationships build and crumble as the plot races on. In really good crime novels, the major character develops, learning more about himself as he explores the situation. The solution arrives in a rush of tension and surprise as the reader shoots out the end of the book, looking forward to the next story featuring this interesting and complex character. The Hollow Man, a first novel by Oliver Harris (Harper Trade Paper, 2012, $14.99) is a very fine crime novel, as much a character study as a police procedural.

Nick Belsey is a London cop who's apparently hit bottom when he wakes up on a pile of leaves in the middle of Hamsptead Heath, not able to remember how he go there or to account for what's happened to his life. Belsey is either a good cop and a bad man or a bad cop whose investigative skills far exceed his moral perspective, worn down by years of dealing with compromised colleagues and the corrupt underbelly of his town. Anyway, Belsey is bankrupt, both morally and actually - homeless, broke, and broken. He pulls himself together enough to go to his precinct and begin an investigation that catches his attention and begins on an odyssey that turns into a waltz through the steamy side of the the London financial district (The City), corruption in the police department, a series of strange and seemingly unrelated murders, and the likely end of his own career.  

Belsey begins his investigation in the luxurious Hampstead home of the mysterious business man Andrei Devereaux. His house is strangely without character, and, as he searches it without finding a sign of Devereaux, a plan to restore his finances and escape his dilemma begins to emerge. When he discovers Devereaux's body in a safe room and his death is determined to be suicide, he begins to assume Devereaux's mysterious identity and seek to loot his many hidden bank accounts in various shelter havens around the world. Seeking cash he sells Devereaux's car while continuing to seek to infiltrate and investigate the increasingly mysterious and dangerous project only known to The City as Project Boddicca.  Despite his character flaws, which are many and nearly disabling, Belsey is an elusive and oddly attractive character. He is both world weary and driven to find the underlying causes for crimes that come his way. He cannot keep his personal life from intervening nor his weaknesses from both hampering and aiding his searches. As people continue to die at the hands of a mysterious assassin, Belsey himself becomes an object of the investigation. A romantic interest complicates matters still more.

Oliver Harris

The Hollow Man is Oliver Harris's first novel and stands as a very promising introduction to an engaging character should Harris decide to turn it into a detective fiction series. As a personally dissolute police officer who cannot resist chasing the clues he uncovers, perhaps the best quality of a good cop despite the fact it inevitably plays havoc on maintaining a personal life, Nick Belsey has many dimensions worth further development and exploration.  Harris is in the process of earning a PhD in literature and has worked at a number of jobs. His writing is filled with ripe images and lively dialogue. Belsey is a rounded character whose complexity makes him an intriguing as a persona for further adventures. The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris is published by Harper ($14.99, 470 pages) and is available in all formats. The book was provided to me by the publisher through TLC Book Tours.

Other Stops on the Hollow Man Book Tour
Tuesday, October 23rd: Literary Feline  - The Hollow Man
Wednesday, October 24th: Ted Lehmann’s Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms – The Hollow Man
Thursday, October 25th: Life In Review  - The Hollow Man
Wednesday, October 31st: Jen’s Book Thoughts  - The Hollow Man
Tuesday, November 6th: Seaside Book Nook - The Hollow Man
Wednesday, November 7th: Book Him Danno!  - The Hollow Man
Tuesday, November 13th: she treads softly   - The Hollow ManWednesday, November 14th: Man of la Book  - The Hollow Man
Thursday, November 15th: A Bookworm’s World  - The Hollow Man
Tuesday, November 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller - The Hollow Man
TBD: nomadreader  - The Hollow Man