RICHARD HALEY – Thoroughfare of Stones.

Headline, UK, paperback reprint, 1996. First hardcover edition: Headline, UK, 1995. No US edition.

   You may be more widely versed in British mystery writers who’ve never been published in the US than I am – and for whatever reason, there are a good many of them – but I have a feeling that Richard Haley may be as new a name to you as it was to me when I picked this book up to read.

   Here’s what the blurb inside the front cover says about the author:

    “Richard Haley was born and educated in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and has lived all his life in that area. He Began his working career in the wool trade, than undertook administration and personnel work for an international company producing man-made fibres, which gave him plenty of opportunity to travel.

    “Now retired, he lives with his wife in his native town, which inspired the background to this first John Goss novel, and he recently completed his second.”

   As for John Goss, he’s a private detective based in a town called Beckford, which confused me a little, as according to the Google map I have, Beckford and Bradford are quite a distance apart. No matter. Even though Thoroughfare of Stones has its flaws, it shows that Richard Haley should have started writing PI novels long before he did. (I grant you that living a life before taking up writing can often give you something to write about, and that may well be the case here. It should also be noted that Haley wrote three non-mystery novels before turning to PI fiction.)

   Before continuing further, though, here’s a list of all the John Goss novels, taken from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin:

      Thoroughfare of Stones (Headline, 1995)
      When Beggars Die (Headline, 1996)
      Written in Water (Hale, 1999)


      Fear of Violence (Hale, 2000)

   Haley has another PI character named Frank Crane, who so far has appeared in the following novels, not in CFIV, all having come out post-2000:

      The Murderer’s Son (Hale, 2006)
      Dead Dream Girl (Hale, 2007)
      Blood and Money (Hale, 2008)


   The only one of these I own is the one in hand, and let’s get to it, shall I? Goss is a PI more or less by default, having been turned down by the police force for health reasons. In Thoroughfare he’s hired by a wife who is wondering where her husband is wandering. He’s a a wealthy executive for large chemical firm’s local branch, and Goss has no problem asking (and getting) a thousand a week plus expenses.

   There is no other woman, though, as Goss soon discovers, but along the way I learned what the British idiom “getting his leg over” means. You can look it up. I won’t tell you. What he does learn is something worse in one sense, although Mrs. Rainger doesn’t seem to agree, but the local police force do. Or would if Goss would tell them, but he hesitates, and for a while all seems lost, as the “enemy” is quite capable of being as ruthless as any other gang of villains when cornered and at bay.


   I should also mention Fernande, a girl Goss meets and gets to know very well. She is almost-but-not-quite beautiful, sexy, flighty, mercurial, a liar, a consummate actress, and Goss simply can not resist her. In terms of the case he is working on, Fernande works in Rainger’s office, but otherwise she is not involved with any of his other activities. Nonetheless she is important both to Goss and (as they soon discover) to the predicament he puts them in …

   … the resolution to which takes up the last 150 pages of a novel containing just over 400 pages. I’ll wager that if you’re like me, they won’t take you much more than an hour to read, the pages will be turning so fast. This is a thriller novel, not a detective puzzle, make no mistake about it.

   Looking back once you’ve finished, you’ll realize that the opposition was just a little too efficient and deadly to make such foolish mistakes as they eventually did, but if they hadn’t – as we all well know – Goss and Fernande would never have survived past page 300.

   Lest you get me wrong, no PI novel containing more than 400 pages could be readable if the characters were not top notch and ably created, and in Thoroughfare of Stones, they are. It takes more than all-out action to make a believer out of me.