Monday, 25 November 2013

The Raven's Eye by Barry Maitland

published 2013

chapter 9








[Policewoman Kathy Kolla is on an undercover operation in a casino]

[Kathy] put on her short black dress— the one with a hint of bling around the collar and hem— dark tights and high heels. She did her make-up, not sparing the mascara and lipstick, put on her best earrings and necklace and combed her blonde hair back into the bob she’d had done at the salon the previous evening. She stared at her reflection in the mirror, added a touch more lippy, and decided it would do…. DS Mickey Schaeffer was looking dapper in a tuxedo. He eyed Kathy approvingly. ‘Got your gun?’…

They caught a cab to Fantasyland, and entered arm in arm, looking as if they’d been out on the town all night. The gaming rooms were relatively quiet, a few bleary-looking couples yawning, a gaggle of young women from somewhere up north— Manchester by the sound of it— still buzzing on pills and alcohol, a couple of more serious punters with expressionless faces. Kathy had an earpiece hidden beneath her hair, through which she heard the operation controller checking the arrival of armed response units in the surrounding streets. Together, she and Mickey made their unhurried way from room to room, checking the layout against the plans and photographs they’d memorised, and mentally recording the faces of guests and staff. A camera in Kathy’s bag was also transmitting pictures to control.



observations: Could have done with access to Kathy’s secret camera. I thought it would be easy to find a nice photo of smart couples in a casino, but it is close to impossible: there are not that many pictures of the interiors, and those that exist are nearly always empty of customers. Any modern picture showing punters looks a bit down-market – they are not dressed in black tie, that’s for sure. So I settled for this 1880s print of Monte Carlo. Presumably it is casino policy not to allow photos – I had such a clear vision in my head of some James Bond-style scene with beautiful people, bright lights and gold fittings. The non-existence of this picture was very disappointing,

Unlike the book: Barry Maitland has written a series of 12 excellent police procedurals featuring Brock and Kolla, and this is the newest one. They are much-loved among crime fiction aficionados, and it is surprising they have never crossed over into bestsellerdom – perhaps they need a TV series. They are all set in and around London, and do a fantastic job of showing small corners of the city: it is always a shock to find out all over again that Maitland has lived in Australia for years. I don’t know how he does it, but the authenticity is striking. His background in architecture and urban design usually shows through: a fascination with the canals of London is evident here, and he certainly conveys their charms and secret ubiquity.

Kathy is trying to flush out a hardened violent criminal: she is acting as a decoy, and if there were any criticism of this book it would be that she keeps going back into jeopardy – on one of the occasions every reader must be shouting ‘no no don’t do it.’ But we can forgive Maitland anything: the tension he creates in the various scenarios is impressive. Let’s hope he keeps writing these winning books.

The picture shows the gaming room in Monte Carlo in 1889.

9 comments:

  1. Never seen or heard of this series before, which is a shame as I reckon I would have enjoyed them. The author's name seems familiar, but puzzling because the books definitely aren't.

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    1. I think you might like them Col, they might be just on the cusp where yours and my tastes collide... I don't know why they aren't better known, they really should be.

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  2. Interesting that you had such problems finding a picture of a real casino. I've never been inside one but they seem familiar from all the films I've watched. I've heard of the author but not read any. A series for my list I think!

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    1. Yes definitely go for it. I wonder if there's some security aspect or privacy aspect that casinos don't like photos... I am quite mystified by it.

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  3. Moira - Oh, I like this series very much. I'm glad you've highlighted it. And it's interesting how certain casinos have an up- and certain a downmaket feel about them. It's not easy to get 'photos of the good ones, but and Maitland does a good job of depicting the atmosphere.

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    1. Thanks Margot, I know we share a liking for Maitland - you did a good Spotlight on one of them recently as I recall. As you say he is VERY good at both crime and atmosphere -it's one of my favourite series.

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  4. Maitland is an author I am definitely reading in 2014. I read the first one in the series a few years ago and never kept up with them.

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    1. I'm sure you'd enjoy them Tracy, you should dip in again... maybe there'll be one at your big book sale next year?

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    2. I have the next two or three in the series, but I do try to fill in the others each time I go to the sale. I know I will get to them eventually.

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