THE CROOKED MAN by Philip Davison


Email this review


A Dublin novelist/film editor debuts here with a taut, richly understated crime thriller, the first in a series, about a bad man trapped in his own dark world.

Harry Fielding is one of those useful bastards you don’t want to get too close to. An “understrapper” (i.e., gofer) at Britain’s MI5, Harry is so shady even his own boss doesn’t like to take phone calls from him. But when there’s a nasty bit of work to be attended to—be it blackmail, eavesdropping, money-laundering, or simple violence—Harry’s your man. Given his line of work, it’s understandable that Harry hasn’t an abundance of friends. He lives alone and subsists mainly on airline meals that he buys in bulk. Nonetheless, he manages to become friendly with Lisa Talbot, his next-door neighbor, whom Harry witnessing murdering her brother-in-law one night. As a kindred spirit, Harry declines to turn her in, but Lisa is caught all the same and packed off to jail. Later, Harry is sent to take photographs of a cabinet minister in flagrante delicto with his young mistress. Unfortunately, he ends up taking snaps of a murder instead—since the cabinet minister goes rather overboard this time and stabs the girl to death. All in a day’s work, of course: Harry checks in with the office and is told to help the man hush the business up. So the cabinet minister gets hustled back home and the poor girl’s body is dealt with as discreetly as Harry can manage. He doesn’t let on about the photos, however—yet. Eventually Harry meets and falls in love (or at least goes to bed) with Maureen Talbot, Lisa’s sister. Lisa had killed Maureen’s husband because he’d been beating Maureen mercilessly; now Maureen feels terrible that Lisa is languishing behind bars on her account. If only there were some way to help—which is to say, if only Harry had a heart. Perhaps his training as a blackmailer will come in useful after all—unless the cabinet minister is smarter than Harry. It’s a close call.

Hip, slick, and surprisingly deft: a strangely uplifting tale of perfectly dreadful people.

Pub Date: June 25th, 2002
ISBN: 0-14-200208-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2002