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Bookends: A Retired Detective Seeks Closure in his Home Town December 29, 2013

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Devil's Dust

Bookends: A Retired Detective Seeks Closure in his Home Town

By Dan Davidson

April 22, 2013

– 711 words –

 

The Devil’s Dust

By C.B. Forrest

Dundurn Press

284 pages

$17.99

It’s a little disconcerting to open up the third act of a trilogy without having seen the first two parts, but C.B. Forrest manages to make it work without burdening the reader with too many flashbacks and information dumps.

Charlie McKelvey made his debut in The Weight of Stones, a story set near the end of his career as a member of Toronto’s Metro Hold-Up Squad. In a story nominated as the best first mystery novel by the Crime Writers of Canada, Forrest introduced us to a man traumatized by the death of his son, Gavin, who had been murdered. Forced into early retirement by illness, Charlie engages in some questionable revenge behavior.

In the second book, Slow Recoil, his life goes further downhill as his marriage dissolves and he finds himself accused of a murder he is helping a friend to investigate.

The Devil’s Dust takes Charlie back to his roots in a mid-sized mining town that is on the decline, trying to cope with the mess his life is in along with the fact that he has cancer and has grown dependent (as much as he hates to admit it) on the pain medication he was prescribed for injuries that happened while he was on the force.

Ste. Bernadette is a town going down the drain. The mine is winding up operations. The economic future might be salvaged by a casino on a near-by native reserve, a hydro-line project or by turning the empty pits into a repository for garbage from the USA.

To add to this existential despair, someone has decided to provide the youth of the town with a free supply of methamphetamine, the “devil dust” of the title. The town’s small police force is overwhelmed in short order when one formerly upstanding youngster murders his best friend while “speeding” and someone blows up the trailer where the local pot dealer lives on the edge of town.

Charlie didn’t come home looking for a job. By sheer coincidence he has actually rented the company house he grew up in and is just trying to come to terms with his illness, his depression and some leftover personal mysteries from his youth.

Many years ago there was a vicious strike at the mine. Replacement workers were brought in from the nearby reservation. There was an explosion and one of them died. While many of the miners were WW II vets and would have had the training to create and detonate a bomb, Charlie has always wondered what role his father played in those events. Wondering was part of what motivated him to go into law enforcement and now, as his life moves towards what may be its final act, he wants to know for sure.

Still, his detective’s instincts are piqued by what is happening, and he accepts the urging of Constable Ed Nolan, Police Chief Gallagher and the Mayor to be deputized to work on this case. As the body count grows, the Ontario Provincial Police send in an investigator, Inspector Euphenia (Finn) Madsen. It is a reunion of sorts, for he had worked with her some years earlier, when she was just a rookie in Barrie and he was the seasoned veteran not yet strung out on his personal crises.

It is Charlie and Finn, working together, who actually solve the case, which has ramped up to include several murders and the disappearance of the chief of police as well as an unrelated real estate scam by one of the town’s more unsavory characters. In addition, Charlie manages to find out the truth about his father, a truth he can be happy with.

In interviews, Forrest has indicated that this trilogy is the end of the McKelvey saga. What he has done though, is introduced a character who could easily carry a book or two on her own. Both Eric Wilson and L.R. Wright introduced new characters when they retired their original detectives.

Forrest lives in Ottawa and has been active as a poet as well as a mystery writer, with works appearing in a number of journals.

-30-

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