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Gritty police procedures in a small English coastal city--featuring the shifty use of ""narcs"" (criminal informers) by seedy Supt. Colin Harpur, 36, dubbed ""Dirtyish Harry"" by his liberal, tart wife Megan. According to shady art-dealer Jack Lamb (Harpur's top narc), a gang from London is planning a 4-million-pound bank heist--but the details remain vague. So Harpur tries to collect more data from other informers, with ugly results: two minor, pathetic narcs turn up dead--as does young cop Brian Avery. Worse yet, though Harpur & Co. do manage to prevent the big bank-robbery, the gang-mastermind--ruthless Rex Holly--is allowed to escape from the ensuing bloody shoot-out. Therefore, feeling vengeful and guilty (he lusted after Avery's wife, he mucked up the bank showdown), Harpur is determined to hunt down the evil Holly no-matter-what--even though Holly, a cheeky fugitive, threatens to expose some unlovely details about Supt. Harpur's arrangements with suave informer Jack Lamb. And a series of chases and confrontations will follow. . .with a nice, anti-heroic windup: it's super-narc Lamb, not super-cop Harpur, who ultimately sees that justice is done. James delivers this episodic rough-stuff in serviceable tough-guy prose (slangy, sardonic) that occasionally rises to more distinctive levels: the snarling dialogue sometimes has the black-comic zest of Wambaugh; the grim details of inner-city policework sometimes suggest a UK equivalent of Hill Street Blues. And there's some additional transatlantic interest in the English variations on the issues of police-brutality and civil rights for criminals. (""Were police in any other country subject to such snivelling queries?"") In sum: cops-and-robbers pulp with a right-wing English accent--but also with enough downbeat realism and nervy texture to provide above-average diversion.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1985
ISBN: 0881508047
Publisher: St. Martin's