Title: Lonely Hearts
Author: John Harvey
ISBN: 0380710064/ Avon Books, 1990
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Charlie Resnick mystery
First Line: She hadn't thought of him for a long time.
Ever since I started focusing on mysteries, I would see people praise John Harvey's Charlie Resnick series. Although I didn't do anything about it for a few years, I did file that praise away in one of my mental lumber rooms, and now I've read the first in the series to see if the praise was deserved. Even though it's only the first in the series, I think Lonely Hearts has set the stage for many hours of reading pleasure to come.
Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick is a bit battered and world weary. Divorced and overweight, a middle-aged lover of food, cats, and jazz, he takes all of his cases to heart, feeling compassion for the victims and rage for the perpetrators. One of his cases (involving child abuse) has gone to the courts, and Resnick finds himself with two murder victims. After investigating both, it turns out that their only tie is that both women had placed an ad in a local "Lonely Hearts" column. Will Resnick find the killer before any more women are found dead in Nottingham?
Although Lonely Hearts was written twenty years ago, it didn't feel dated, other than having more references to smoking and a lack of cell phones. Resnick is shown as not only having great compassion toward people but also great rage, as when he interviews a suspect he believes to be guilty. (Anyone watching me read this scene would tell you that I resemble the proverbial deer in the headlights. Whoa!) Having come fresh from reading Dog On It, it was nice to see that Resnick's cats (Dizzy, Miles, Pepper and Bud) didn't have a single thought to share with anyone. Their lives consisted of eating, twining around human feet and sleeping-- usually on top of Resnick's head or curled around his neck.
The characterizations in the book were very strong, and the identity of the killer I found particularly baffling. The only quibble I have with this book is that, once the possible killer is mentioned, the action begins to snowball, gaining more and more speed until the end, which felt very rushed. But that's a small complaint. With the cast of characters Harvey introduced me to in Lonely Hearts, I'm looking forward to making my way through this series and savoring each book.