‘Brings a new understanding to the background of the Miners’ Strike’ – Darkness, Darkness by John Harvey

Dddjharkness, Darkness opens at the funeral of a Nottinghamshire miner whose ambition in life was “long as I live long enough to see the last of that bloody woman, and dance on her grave”. He managed to outlive Margaret Thatcher but the bitterness and destruction of the Miners’ Strike is still an open wound.

Nottinghamshire’s long-standing fictional detective, Charlie Resnick, is forced back to work and to explore his memories of the 1980’s when the body of a woman is found is the derelict ruins of a mining village. The body is identified as Jenny Hardwick, wife of a miner who was breaking the strike, while she was a strike organiser who was finding a new sense of purpose and freedom in standing up for her community.

Resnick is an old-school (literary) copper, world-weary, solitary, given to brooding on loss and with a character-defining love of music, jazz in his case, along with an intense emotional connection to his patch, Nottingham. Like Morse or Rebus, Resnick is a man who can say “other people’s happiness, it could be a bastard at times.” As he investigates the long-forgotten death, and the still remembered political conflicts of its time, the rage and desperation of the miners as they embark on a lost cause, Darkness, Darkness suggests that, perhaps, crime novelists are the main literary historians of the working-class. The investigations of fictional detectives seem to create the most convincing portraits of working-class characters. Even with competition from David Peace Darkness, Darkness brings a new understanding to the background of the Miners’ Strike and explains why it still matters decades later.

Resnick is one of those detectives, and Harvey one of those novelists, who builds up a vivid, intimate understanding of their society, understanding the connections (and confrontations) between characters, an emotional identification that places them momentarily at the centre of a community they are separated from (and will have to leave after solving the crime). It’s a satisfying approach, utilising the old novelistic skills of characterisation and plot. This is Resnick’s last case, and John Harvey’s last Resnick novel, so a sense of farewell is inevitable but Darkness, Darkness will (hopefully) draw readers to the earlier Resnick novels.

Any Cop:? A fine introduction, as well as a farewell, to a well-drawn character, an atmospheric crime novel that highlights John Harvey’s intelligence and style.

 

James Doyle


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