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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Book review - Turnstone

First in the twelve-book series about Detective Inspector Joe Faraday, Turnstone (2000) is an excellent British police procedural novel set in the Portsmouth area. I must admit that I found Graham Hurley’s book fascinating as I read about places familiar to me.

The book begins with a young girl finding her way to the police station to report her father Stuart Maloney missing. At the time, DI Faraday was busy with a drug case.  Something about the misper (missing person) case draws in Faraday, however, and the deeper he digs the more certain he becomes that Maloney is dead.

We get to know detective Paul Winter, a rough nut of the old school who prefers to bend the rules to get a good result, CID sergeant Cathy Lamb, who discovers her husband Peter is being unfaithful, Detective Superintendent Arnold Pollock, Faraday’s boss, ‘a thin intense high-flyer with a Cambridge degree and little time for moral nuances’, and DI Harry Wayte, in charge of the area Drugs Squad, ‘who hid his determination to smash the local drug supply networks behind a robust sense of humour and a bottomless thirst’. Interesting characters, all, drawn with depth and humour.

The local drug lord seems untouchable. Winter’s attempts to get something on him backfire spectacularly and embarrassingly, injecting some humour in an otherwise bleak landscape – a landscape also populated by birds of the feathered variety. Faraday is a bit of a bird enthusiast, and has a vast library on them. He has nurtured his son’s interest in them, too: J-J is now twenty-two, and has been motherless for most of those years, Janna having died when he was an infant. J-J is deaf and the relationship between him and his father is touchingly revealed.

The disappearance of Maloney seems linked to some contestants in the Fastnet race. The Fastnet has claimed several lives over the years, and this year is no exception: some boats capsized and one even sank. The survivors, Faraday feels, are connected to Maloney but are not telling.  

Hurley paints his pictures well: ‘Harry… moved in a world where truth was a currency, traded for favours, distorted for gain, abandoned when plain fiction seemed more plausible. Dealing with junkies, and the suppliers who kept them in their cage, you got to disbelieve absolutely everything, even the evidence of your own eyes. See a man with one head, he probably had two.’ (p207)

The title is word-play. Turnstones are two species of wading bird related to the sandpipers, and frequent the mudflats near Faraday’s home. And of course Faraday leaves no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the misper riddle.

A satisfying read. I look forward to the next eleven books!

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