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Bookends: There are too many motives in this case January 16, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery.
Tags: , , ,

Bookends: There are too many motives in this case

By Dan Davidson

January 6, 2016

code– 858 words –

The Code
By G.B Joyce

Viking Press
343 pages

Kindle edition


Several times in the course of this novel Brad “Shadow” Shade compares his job as a hockey scout for an unnamed NHL team in LA to that of a private eye, but the former NHL player never expected to be drawn into a murder investigation when he agreed to play on an Old Timer’s Game in Peterborough.

Shade loves the game, but he’s not at all sure about the league to which he devoted all those years from 1985 to 1998, before he was sidelined by the “Arthur”, as he calls it, that keeps him in pretty constant pain. He’s popping pan meds quite a lot, especially after a long flight or if he choses to lace up his skates, as he did for the Charity Old Timers’ Game in Peterborough the night that legendary coach Red Hanratty and his junior team doctor, Doc McGarry, were beaten to death in he parking lot outside the arena.

Shade wants us to know that the game is great, but we should “Understand that the league is a systemic organization of hatreds. You might know a lot about the game, but you’ll know nothing about the league until you accept this.

“It’s true of all of them: the players, the coaches, the general managers, the executives, the agents, and the owners. It goes right from the high and mighty, the commissioner and his ilk in their plush Madison Avenue offices, right down to the lowest ranks, the scouts who sit next to me in arenas great and small.”

So when something like murder happens, there’s really no lack of motivation to hunt for. All you need to do is match it with means and opportunity.

Shade has some experience with this too. In between playing and scouting he made use of his incomplete degree in criminology and spent five years working for a private investigator, mostly doing divorce work (“I’d been through my own and knew what to look for.”) before another former player, elevated to GM rank in LA, offered him a job as a scout.

Shade has a good eye for evaluating potential in young players, and his other reason for spending time in Peterborough has been to keep an eye on Hanratty’s golden boy, Billy Mays. Scouting is a job he enjoys, even if there are little hiccups like the time he got swarmed by cops in the airport in Frankfurt while reaching for his cellphone (one of the best scenes in the book) and one he would like to keep, but nothing is totally certain in the world of pro sports and his GM’s position is precarious.

Bits of Shade’s life have been precarious. He was initially going to follow his dad into police work, but got sidetracked by hockey. His marriage foundered when the cute young actress eventually became a bigger star than he was and she moved on. He wasn’t in the game long enough or at a high enough level to put away a nest egg, so he’s always had to scrabble to pay the bills. He has an aging car he calls the Rusty Beemer.

G.B. Joyce, otherwise known as sportswriter Gare Joyce, did spend a year working as a scout while he was researching a 2007 hockey book, Future Greats and Heartbreaks, so he is able to project a lot of convincing details into his first person narrator.

The voice and tone are familiar. It’s not poetic enough for Chandler, and too nice for Hammett, not self-assured enough for Spenser; but it is in that realm, the realm of the tarnished hero, walking the mean streets and trying, more or less, to do the right thing. Howard Engel’s Benny Cooperman on steroids maybe.

For an ex-hockey player Shade is fairly cerebral. Yes, he lays a beating on the villain who tries to harm his significant other later in the book, and there is a bar fight earlier on, but most of the time he’s thinking various things through, examining the angles, making connections, making sense out of events that other people aren’t managing to.

He says it’s the way he used to play hockey, not as a star, but as someone who could help others make plays and see the big picture even if he didn’t score a lot of goals himself.

This one’s been sitting in my “to read” box for a bit, which is why I’ve given you the Kindle reference. It had “A Brad Shade Thriller” stamped on the cover by the title, so Joyce set out to do a series from the get-go. Sure enough, there’s been another one already. It’s called The Black Ace, and I think I’d like to read it too, eventually.

Joyce hasn’t given up his day job. He currently writes for Sportsnet, and his coverage of the recent World Junior Championships in Helsinki was interesting, even for someone like me who stopped following the game after the first expansion teams were brought in.





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