PAY DAYS by Bill James


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The Elmore Leonard of Britain’s underworld has himself a doozy of a plot this time. Rival druglords Manse Shale and Panicking Ralphy Ember and their seconds-in-command, Alf Ivis and Beau Derek, are trying to decide whether Chief Inspector Richard Nivette has really crossed over to their side or is “doubling” to gather information for Chief Supt. Colin Harpur and his superiors, caustic Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles and mentally fading Chief Constable Mark Lane. Harpur, Iles, and Lane are wondering the same thing, since Nivette’s bribe-taking was unsanctioned. Meanwhile, the body of minor drug-hustler Slow Victor turns up on a boat moored at the docks, then disappears. Whodunit—and who took it? Probably the same sods who murdered and disappeared Slow Vic’s lover Finnane, a pol in the Home Office Ministry—and put a bullet in the head of Nivette. The crooks predictably fall out, with Ivis double-crossing Shale and Ralphy maneuvering against Ivis. Meanwhile, Lane desperately hopes his protégé Nivette died a hero; Iles tries to protect one of his favorite tarts, who was working dockside the night of Slow Vic’s murder; and Harpur once again handles the brunt of the investigation while dealing with burglary, ride-arounds, snitches, grieving widows, dithery Lane, chronically hostile Iles, his own teenaged daughters, and his college-age girlfriend.

Nobody’s better than James (Panicking Ralph, p. 462, etc.) at showing pique escalating to bloody infighting among coppers as well as crooks. You’ll need a scorecard to tally up the changing alliances—and you’ll need to keep your head down to avoid the ubiquitous bullet.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-393-04214-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2001


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