Flesh and Blood: Elder in love

If you love mysteries, read Flesh and Blood. The ending is an absolute stunner.

The author, John Harvey, is probably better known for his Charlie Resnick novels. But here the detective is Frank Elder. Divorced and retired from the police force, he follows up an old case when one of the two men convicted is released from prison.

Shane Donald, convicted for the rape and murder of a young girl, was also questioned about another missing girl, Susan Blacklock. But Shane denied having anything to do with her.

Elder decides to look into the case again when Shane is released. And the fallout is totally unexpected.

The stunning ending really drives home the unpredictability of the human heart. Here is a girl whose father left her mother when she was a baby and yet…

Flesh and Blood well and truly lives up to its title with moving descriptions of human relationships.

Digging up the family history, Elder is drawn to Susan’s mother, Helen. Living alone with her daughter’s memories, she responds.

She invites him to dinner and, before they know it, they are making love. Two lonely people suddenly drawn together.

Harvey has written a memorable love scene. You can feel the intensity and awkwardness of two middle-aged loners trying to cover up their embarrassment with gentle humour:

He reached past her to set the glasses down and as he leaned back again, his face close to hers, close enough, she kissed him, or he kissed her, it scarcely mattered which, they were kissing. Elder with his eyes shut tight as her mouth moved over his, his tongue on hers and her breathing loud and ragged and when he touched her his fingers accidentally found a small place at the side of her dress  where the seam had split and the tips of his fingers were touching skin.


She spoke his name… and for an answer he kissed the side of her face and on down into her neck and she said his name again only louder this time and he moved his hand against her and felt a few more stitches give and now he had hold of her inside her dress, the flesh moving easily between fingers and thumb, and she was kissing the corner of his mouth and the bridge of his nose and his eyes and as he moved against her she went awkwardly backwards and then down, half-stumbling, on to her knees and he went with her, still holding her, and she pulled at the open collar of his shirt and when the button refused to give she bit the underside of his lip, not hard, but hard enough and he moved his hand from inside her dress and touched her breast and she jerked back and clipped her head against the wooden edge of the sink and said, “Frank, I’m too old to do this on the kitchen floor.”

He got to his feet, suddenly embarrassed, but she took his hand and led him to the stairs… and bending her face towards him she kissed him full on the mouth…

“Don’t close the door, Frank,” she said once they were inside the room. “It will be too hot.”…

“Jesus, Frank.” She kissed the sweat from his eyebrows and tasted herself on his mouth and on his chin. “Jesus, that was…” She laughed and held him. “I forget what that was.”

She smiled and laughed some more and Frank reached around and unfastened her bra and kissed her breasts which were fleshy and loose with their nipples that were dark and large and which he kissed and teased between his teeth and when he slid one leg between hers she said, “Wait, just wait,” and when Elder rolled away disappointed she said: “I don’t suppose you’ve got a condom?” He shook his head and she pushed herself off the bed and half-walked, half-hopped to what he assumed was the bathroom, returning moments later with a silver foil-wrapped rectangle. “I daren’t guess what the sell-by date is on this.”

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