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Bookends: A Pair of Canadian mysteries February 19, 2015

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: A Pair of Canadian mysteries

By Dan Davidson

December 17, 2014

– 838 words –


Cut to the BoneCut to the Bone

By Joan Boswell


300 pages



Cut to the Bone is the fourth of the Hollis Grant mysteries, though it is the first I’ve seen. So far, all of them have had the word “cut” in the title. Hollis has been a community college teacher and is currently an aspiring artist, though she is making a living and keeping the wolf from the door by being the superintendent at an apartment building when we catch up with her this time. It’s an eight story building that has recently been renovated and at least one floor of the building has tenants that work for an escort (with benefits) service. When one of her tenants is murdered, Hollis once again finds herself in the middle of a homicide investigation.

She’s not alone. In the previous novels she has developed something of a love/hate relationship with Rhona Simpson, a rather tall detective with a mixed blood aboriginal heritage. Rhona complains a lot about Hollis being underfoot, but does acknowledge to her homicide partner, Ian Gilchrist, that the pesky amateur has proven useful from time to time.

Hollis’s life is complicated by the fact that she is fostering a young native girl named Jay. The custody arrangement stipulates that Jay’s father only gets to see her under certain conditions and he keeps trying to stretch that envelope, which creates some problems for Hollis.

When the woman who was sharing the apartment with the murder victim disappears, Hollis gets a voice mail message asking her to care for Crystal, her niece, until she can return. There’s no real clue as to why she’s chosen to vanish and this complicates matters. While a woman named Sabrina was the victim, it is possible that the murderer was really after someone else.

At the station, Rhona has been assigned the task of looking into all the cold cases involving aboriginal women. While she may be a good fit for that assignment, she’s concerned that it’s mainly public relations because of her ethnicity, and isn’t any happier when she and Ian are given the case in Hollis’ building.

There are a lot of threads to follow in this story. We spend most of the narrative following Hollis, but Rhona gets her share too. Some of Hollis’ activity has nothing to do with the murder, but does connect to larger themes about missing aboriginal women and other social issues.

While some of the solution is due to the work of the gifted amateur, there’s a fair bit of credit that has to go to the police procedural routines as well, which gives the story a nice balance.

Joan Boswell lives in Toronto and her novels are set there.



A Grave WaitingA Grave Waiting

By Jill Downie


362 pages



Jill Downie is also an Ontario based writer, living in Ancaster (a part of the city of Hamilton), but she has lived in a number of other places and has chosen one of them, the island of  (a British possession just off the coast of Normandy), as the setting for her mystery series. The lead characters are Detective Inspector Ed Moretti and his partner, Detective Sergeant Liz Falla, and the narrative alternates back and forth between their points of view. Both of them have lives outside of the force, though this is mainly expressed through their musicianship. Moretti plays piano in a jazz trio and Falla plays guitar and sings in some sort of folk group. In this book, at least, we spend more musical time with Moretti, and the three sections of the novel are named as if they are directions for a jazz arrangement.

The pair is called in to investigate the death of Bernard Masterson, an arms dealer who has been killed on his yacht in the St. Peter Port Harbour. Masterson was shot in his posh bedroom by persons unknown. Several members of his crew and entourage are suspicious characters, to say the least, but there doesn’t seem to have been any motive for them to have done the deed. Given his web of illegal business ventures, there are all kinds of potential motives for his murder, but none of them seem to connect to the people around him. Why had he come there in the first place?

The investigation leads the detectives to look into the activities of a number of locals that they already know. Moretti finds himself attracted to one of the new ladies recently moved to the island and that becomes tricky. The actual solution to the murder turns out to be way more James Bondish than I expected it to be.

As in a lot of mysteries, the locale is almost a character in itself. I’ve never been to Guernsey, but I feel like I’ve had a taste of it. This is the second of the Moretti and Falla mysteries. The series looks like it might have legs.






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