Sunday, December 5, 2010

Safely to the Grave

Miss Lemon doubts she has ever met a character in mystery so unrelentingly pernicious as Mick Harvey.

He's a villain to outdo all of Margaret Yorke's villains. And she, the mistress of the psychological thriller, knows how to paint startling portraits of evil.
When we first meet Mick, he is not only rough with his wife, Beverley, and a thundering bully to his neighbours, but he also quickly reveals himself to be mean, cocksure, prone to drink and quick to blame others for all of his own shortcomings. His hair is permed, he wears a weak mustache and the beginnings of a beer belly.

Just the sorts of things one hopes to find in an anti-hero, aren't they?

But there is nothing redeeming or heroic about Mick Harvey. After cleaning out Beverley's purse and spending the evening at the Cricketers, Mick tries to run two women off the road who are returning from a night at the ballet. When Marion Quilter and Laura Burdock decide to report the incident of dangerous driving to the police, they set off a chain of events that seems as much the product of ill fate as random chance.

Miss Lemon isn't revealing too much when she says that Mick proves more than once that he's not afraid to kill anyone who stands in his way: not even a dog.   

This is in many ways an upsetting novel. And yet ... as much, my stalwart readers, as you will want to put down Safely to the Grave (1986), Miss Lemon tells you that you will not be able to do so.

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