The Hollow Man is Oliver Harris's debut novel and the first release from Bourbon Street Books - Harper Collins' new imprint.
I loved the opening chapters and introduction to Detective Constable Nick Belsey. "The earth was cold beneath his body,. His mouth had soil in it and there was a smell of blood and rotten bark." Has he been attacked? In an accident? Well, yes, but Nick himself is the car wreck. He has a drinking problem, a gambling problem and at this point no possessions and no home. Once he remembers what he did last night, will he have a job?
He heads off to his station and is given an apparent suicide to investigate in a wealthy area of London. Nick finds the body and sends it on it's way to the morgue. With nowhere to stay that night he decides to sleep in the dead man's house. And eat his food, drink his booze, wear his clothes and drive his car. As he looks in the life of (wealthy) dead Alexei Devereaux, Belsey decides to take his money as well. After all, there's no family and it will be a fresh start for him somewhere else.
"It takes the average person twelve months to discover that their identity has been stolen. That was for the living. If this was what he was doing, stealing Devereaux's identity, then it gave him some time. He felt ready to pick up where Devereaux had left off. If he was gong to be born again it would be nice to be someone rich."
But many, many others have their eye on Devereaux's business as well. Taking over Devereaux's life won't be as easy as Nick first thought. Things are getting complicated. Complicating them more is Nick himself. He's also driven by his own desire for answers. So he starts to work the investigation. Unofficially of course.
Nick is the quintessential anti-hero. He's crooked, selfish and self serving. And I couldn't help but like him. For he's also very clever and does have some soft spots. I really enjoyed the way he insinuated himself into situations, finagled what he wanted or needed and bamboozled others. A true wolf in cop's clothing. But, I found myself rooting for him, hoping he gets away with it.
I'm unfamiliar with the setting of North London, but Harris did a good job of bringing his setting to life. The plotting is complex and involved, with many twists and turns. My only complaint would be the reveal of Devereaux's master plan - I found it a bit of a let down and somewhat unbelievable.
The Hollow Man is the first book in the Nick Belsey series. I'll be curious to see where Harris can take this character after this first outing. Read an excerpt of The Hollow Man.
"Oliver Harris was born in north London in 1978. He has a first-class degree in English Literature and an MA in Shakespeare Studies from UCL, and an MA in creative writing from UEA. He has worked in clothing warehouses, PR companies and as a TV and film extra. More recently he assisted with research in the Imperial War Museum archives, and continues to act as a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement. Oli is currently finishing pursuing a PhD on antiquity in the work of Jacques Lacan at Birkbeck’s London Consortium, and in the last few months has presented papers on obscenity at the Hayward and on conspiracy theories at Ghent’s Vooruit Arts Centre. He loves travelling, especially in cold places."You can find Oliver Harris on Twitter.