The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris
Trade Paperback, 470 pages
Trade Paperback, 470 pages
Waking up on Hampstead Heath not far from a crashed squad car, Detective Nick Belsey wants out—out of London and out of the endless complications of his life. When Alexei Devereux, a wealthy hermit, vanishes, leaving behind a suicide note and his Porsche, Belsey discovers an opportunity—a new identity and a fortune—waiting for the taking.
Unfortunately, there are others who share the detective's interest in Devereux, including Scotland Yard. A dead rich man with suspicious financial holdings is bound to have some dangerous ties and a few ruthless enemies. Now, Belsey and his clever plan are about to be overshadowed by far more ambitious players with their own brilliant—and deadly—scheme.
Combining dark humor, dazzling twists, and a sharp narrative style, The Hollow Man is a tour de force of suspense—and the debut of an extraordinary new writer.
The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris is a noir police procedural featuring Detective Constable Nick Belsey. This is a procedural novel with a twist: Belsey is an antihero. He's broke, homeless, corrupt, and on the verge of unemployment. He just wants to find a way out of London and his life. When he is sent to investigate a missing person case and discovers the apparent suicide of enigmatic Russian millionaire Alexei Devereux he sees a way out. No one really seems to know the elusive Devereux. Belsey could create a new identity for himself and a new life, all financed by the dead man's assets.
As Belsey investigates Devereux, however, things are not quite as simple as he first thought and Devereux's life is much more complex than it seemed at first glance. Even as Belsey sleeps at the dead man's luxurious home and schemes to take over his money, he continues to investigate the tangled web surrounding the Russian and his personal and business dealings. And then people that may have been involved in Devereux's life are starting to be murdered, making Belsey's plans more complicated. Belsey is determined to uncover exactly what was going on, even while he lies and schemes to everyone.
This is Harris's first novel and hopefully not his last featuring D.C. Nick Belsey. While the beginning moved much slower than the end, once Belsey's plans began to firm up even as he continued his investigation, the tension began to mount. Toward the end of the novel I was reading with a frantic intensity as pieces of the complicated puzzle were falling into place. Harris had a strong supporting cast of characters that could be further developed along with Belsey in another novel.
The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris is certainly worth reading, especially if you enjoy police procedurals. It sort of reminded me of an old film noir movie (like The Maltese Falcon or Key Largo, with a skilled but world-weary investigator). In other words, I could really see The Hollow Man being made into a movie.
The Hollow Man is another novel being released by HarperCollins US, in their new Bourbon Street Books imprint.
Highly Recommended - as a noir police procedural with a twist.
(I don't think there is connection to the sci-fi novel The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons, or at least I didn't see one. )
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC for review purposes.
Oliver Harris holds an MA in Shakespeare studies from University College London and an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. He has worked in clothing warehouses, at PR companies, and as a TV and film extra, and more recently assisted with research in the Imperial War Museum archives. He writes reviews for the Times Literary Supplement.
Hampstead’s wealth lay unconscious along the edge of the Heath, Mercedes and SUVs frosted beneath plane trees, Victorian terraces unlit. A Starbucks glowed, but otherwise the streets were dark. The first solitary commuter cars whispered down East Heath Road to South End Green. Detective Constable Nick Belsey listened to them, faint in the distance. He could still hear individual cars, which meant it was before seven am. The earth was cold beneath his body. His mouth had soil in it and there was a smell of blood and rotten bark.
Belsey lay on a small mound within Hampstead Heath. The mound was crowded with pine trees, surrounded by gorse and partitioned from the rest of the world by a low, iron fence. So it wasn’t such an absurd place to seek shelter, Belsey thought, if that had been his intention. His coat covered the ground where he had slept. A throbbing pain travelled his upper torso, too general to locate one source. His neck was involved; his right shoulder. The detective stood up slowly. His breath steamed. He shook his coat, put it on and climbed over the fence into wet grass.
From the hilltop he could see London, stretched towards the hills of Kent and Surrey. The sky was beginning to pale at the edges. The city itself looked numb as a rough sleeper; Camden and then the West End, the Square Mile. His watch was missing. He searched his pockets, found a blood-stained serviette and a promotional leaflet for a spiritual retreat, but no keys or phone or police badge.
Belsey stumbled down a wooded slope to the sports ground, crossed the playing field and continued along the path to the ponds. His shoes were flooded, water seeping between his toes. On the bridge beside the mixed-bathing pond he stopped and looked for early swimmers. None yet. He knelt on the concrete of the bridge, bent to the water and splashed his face. Blood dripped from his shaking hands. He leaned over to see his reflection but could make out only an oily confusion of light and darkness. Two swans watched him. ‘Good morning,’ Belsey said. He waited for them to turn and glide a distance away then plunged his head beneath the surface.
Read more of the opening of The Hollow Man at Oliver Harris' website