Monday, March 25, 2019

Aubrey Hamilton Reviews: The Verge Practice by Barry Maitland

The Verge Practice  by Barry Maitland (Allen & Unwin, 2003) is the seventh of the excellent Inspector Brock/DS Kolla British police procedurals. While a Chinese delegation waits to discuss a huge project, one of Charles Verge’s staff members goes in search of the great man, only to find his young second wife stabbed to death and Verge himself has disappeared. After months of fruitless searching and Verge sightings all over the world, Scotland Yard pulls in a new team led by David Brock, hoping for fresh insight. They go over all of the original interviews and inquiries and find a couple of financial discrepancies that lead to Spain, where Verge’s father was born. Suspicion points to one of Verge’s staff and then down a different path, as Maitland piles misdirection upon misdirection and then wraps up with a startling conclusion.

On one level this is a straight-forward police investigation of a crime with a byzantine motive. On another level it considers the nature of creativity: What sparks it? What kind of environment nurtures it best? How is it turned into something useful and marketable? On still another level – this is a complicated narrative – is the question of how well anyone can know anyone else, even someone greatly loved. This query comes up in different ways throughout the book.

Maitland, himself an architect, pulls out all the stops in describing the way a large architectural practice operates and the details of each of the buildings Verge designed. He contrasts the former nicely with the small practice Verge’s first wife sets up for herself after their divorce. There is an ugly little subplot in which one of the police forensics specialists sneakily slides the blame for his mistake onto someone else, who doesn’t understand she’s been thrown under a bus.

I have to say I am a little tired of Kathy Kolla putting herself into senseless jeopardy. It seems to me she did something similar in Silvermeadow. Here she goes to Spain, without telling anyone where she is going, to single-handedly dig further into the background of shady characters. They decided to publicly humiliate her when they could just as easily have made her disappear. No one would have ever known what happened. Her supervisors were rightfully enraged. Other than that, I found this book to be a thought-provoking, multi-faceted piece of crime fiction, typical of the series, and a solidly good read.

These stories are easier to find in the U.S. than they were when I first discovered them about 10 years ago, but I still have only managed to read about half of them, and those out of order. The website of the author’s publisher shows a new Brock and Kolla was released in January 2019 after a hiatus of about six years.

·         Hardcover: 320 pages
·         Publisher: Arcade Publishing (July 14, 2004)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 1559707135
·         ISBN-13: 978-1559707138

Aubrey Hamilton ©2019

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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