Listening to Jay Stringer’s podcast, Hacks, Stringer had an interesting conversation with Josh Stallings who asked, “In American crime fiction, what does post-Ferguson America do with the cop procedural?” A damn good question.
Is the police procedural in the States and elsewhere dead? Not so much dead, just different. Iain Ryan’s Tunnel Island series is the evolution of the police procedural where there is no room for murder books, there is no right way to police, there are no heroes, there are only cops — and they are criminals, each one of them. Ryan’s Civil Twilight, the third in his Tunnel Island series, explores a world where the only difference between cops and criminals is the day job they hate.
The constables— both annoyed, both now soaked through— conducted a half-arsed grid search of the area and turned up nothing. It was midday by the time the acting coroner arrived, Doctor Hooper. He was pissy about the rain. He stood over the body and shook his head and said, “Yeah, he’s dead. Can I go back to the office now?”
Civil Twilight continues the story of pseudo-partners Jim Harris and Laura Romano as they try to keep a kind of order that allows crime to flourish in a sort of Hamsterdam way. Harris and Romano are both past flawed, they are studies of anger and addiction, of force and folly, of murder and mayhem. They are everything you don’t want in a cop. Both may think they are on the road to recovery, they really have no idea where they are walking.
They took his car but Bo drove. Harris directed him to a store not far from the house where he bought a short bottle. If Bo and Frank knew his history, they did a good job hiding it. Neither of them flinched. They sat up front and let him drink his way back to level.
At one point, Romano finds herself attracted to a potential suspect and men are one of the many things she has issues with.
Romano sat in the sand and waited. She hated the melodrama of men but it was always this way with her. Her whole life, she had made difficult decisions for a living. Under pressure, she could react. She could do things other people seemed incapable of. She could arrive at a crime scene and work it. And before the transfer to Tunnel, she’d worked cases tirelessly, alert to connections and nuances that the other detectives around her often failed to see. At the end of those cases, she had often put herself in harm’s way and lived. Never thought much of it; just did it. But this, this part of her life— this part with men— was always a train wreck. It diminished her. The distraction of it. Should she or shouldn’t she call this man again? Should she even touch him? Sleep with him? She knew women half her measure who could fuck-and-run without any of this. It didn’t make a lick of sense to her.
Ryan’s Civil Twilight succeeds at inventing something new, a police procedural that responds to our times rather than some glossed over Hollywood version of the heroic-damaged-misunderstood-audiophile detective, it is a place where life is thick with ambiguity and drowns in humanity’s disease. Ryan’s Tunnel Island series is a world of darkness where characters believe they are surviving, but unknowingly to them their existence is centered around trying not to eat a bullet, whether self-inflicted or a gift in the back of the head.