Beyond Reach

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Many years ago on one of the few occasions my family had access to a TV set (limited to school holidays if results merited it) I recall seeing an episode of Z Cars where the police cars were chasing someone who'd vandalised a bus shelter (or some similar structure) and after an hour or so of low key action had failed to catch the culprits,

It was, to put it mildly, a bit of an eye-opener back in an era when the forced of law and order invariably got their man when they set out in pursuit of serious crime.

Since then there have been plenty of examples of the good guys failing to catch the baddies in print, on film and over the TV ether, and the ongoing battle of wits between the Portsmouth police and their arch-rival Bazza Mackenzie has driven Graham Hurley's Joe Faraday series along very nicely indeed.

Mackenzie, for those unfamiliar with the series is the former soccer hooligan turned drug dealer who has managed to elevate himself above the pack and diversified his interests to the point where he's got a finger in most of the pies going around, and the Pompey Plod know it.

The diversity of Mackenzie's interests means most criminal activity in Portsmouth is bound to impinge on them, even if Bazza's not personally involved from the start, and as he becomes involved the possibility that this might just be the chance to get him comes into the calculations as far as the Constabulary are concerned.

Almost invariably, something goes amiss and the opportunity goes down the gurgler, which is what happens here in Beyond Reach, which is where Bazza seems to be permanently located at a distance that's tantalisingly adjacent.

There are at least three chances to nail him here this time around, though the story starts off in a predictably non-Mackenzie manner when a mangled body found on a main road turns out to be a thug who has been terrorising the Portsdown estate. It's obviously a hit and run, but Kyle Munday has been at the centre of a couple of investigation into the stabbing murder of teenage would-be musician Tim Morrissey on Guy Fawkes night. While Faraday and his colleagues aren't exactly heartbroken at this development there are definite questions that need to be asked.

To muddy the waters and provide a degree of distraction, Faraday's latest lady friend has headed to Montreal and an academic position that threatens to become permanent, while his superiors are starting to question his ability to continue in his current role. They have have effectively sidelined him by handing over a twenty-five year old rape case that just might be able to be reopened thanks to developments in the realms of DNA testing techniques.

None of this has an obvious link to Mackenzie, and he's got problems of his own since his married daughter is cheating on her husband, which mightn't have been a problem if it wasn't distracting her from issues involved with Dad's business interests, which is what brings Dad to ask ex-cop turned minder Paul Winter to look into these things.

When Winter does, it turns out that she's gone and got herself rather deeply involved with a certain high-ranking detective, which suggests there's undercover intrigue afoot. We soon learn while DCI Perry Madison had once been second in command on the Major Crime Team he's almost universally loathed by his colleagues. While his involvement with the girl might be part of a wider plan to bring Bazza unstuck you get the distinct impression that his colleagues would be loath to see the man get any credit for anything.

Hurley does internal police force intrigue and machinations consistently well.


© Ian Hughes 2012