The Dark Edge
Richard Harland

Cover Whoo-hupp, Zag-a-doo, Owzie-wowzie

These and other nefarious bits of ‘spacers’ jargon’ epitomise the single most annoying aspect of the entire book.

But before I start complaining about the book, It might help to know what the book is about. Central Inspector Eddon Brac and Parapsych Assistant Vail ev Vessintor have been sent to planet P-19 to solve a series of brutal murders. Eddon thinks Vail is a spoilt rich bitch and Vail thinks Eddon is a working class bastard. Needless to say these two get on famously from the outset, not. Their investigations on planet P-19 are hampered, naturally, by a belligerent population who don’t want any help or interference from the Hegemony.

Now getting back to the annoying bits Flightman Beano Berrit should have been axed at the inception of this book. His sole function seems to be as a plot device to show readers what is going on whilst keeping it from both Eddon and Vail, and he intersperses this with bouts of ‘spacers’ jargon’. But this is only a minor annoyance compared to the books major problem.

The book is a thriller. Our two investigators are hard at work trying to crack the case, however the answer was completely obvious to me at about page 150. In a 563 page thriller this seems a little early for the reader to be able to work out who the guilty party is. Eddon runs around pursuing his theories as to what’s going on until they all get proven false. Vail crows triumphantly and starts pursuing her theories, gloating that they should have followed hers from the start. Needless to say she is eventually proven wrong, around page 400, and then they both have to start over again, this time investigating what they should have both been considering since page 150.

On top of all this the book is filled with unmemorable secondary characters and Beano ‘Whang-doodle’ Berrit, the renegade from B grade 1950s space operas.

Having read all this you might be wondering why I actually bothered to read it to the end and have given it three stars. In spite of its two flaws ‘Dark Edge’ has three saving graces. Firstly, it’s very easy to read. You’re not wading through turgid prose that has sentences dragging on for two or three pages. It is clear, concise and enjoyable.

Secondly, the setting of P-19 is vivd and imaginative. It’s a dark, dank, Gothic little place. Ideally suited to the Jack the Ripper style murders that are being committed. The buildings, with their swirls of deliberately rusted ironwork, are meticulously described and imbue the book with a wonderful atmosphere.

Thirdly, and most importantly, is the interplay between Eddon and Vail. The only character beside Eddon and Vail that I remember from the book is Beano, and I only remember him because I hated him, the rest of the cast I found interchangable. Eddon and Vail, however, were beautifully rendered. Eddon refuses to acknowledge Vail’s ‘witchy’ parapsych skills as in any way real or useful. It’s all mumbo jumbo, not a science. Vail hates the methodical police procedures that Eddon inflexibly adheres too. They are both infuriated and frustrated with the others attitude to their calling and the fact that they have to work together. This tension is then overlayed with lashings of sex. They both want each other, but refuse to acknowledge it. They’re both adamant they hate the other person and it would never happen.

These three points make the book an entertaining and enjoyable read, regardless of its other problems. This is why I’ve only given it three stars. It’s worth reading, but not outstanding.