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by Kate Hilton and Elizabeth Renzetti
House of Anansi , March 2024
352 pages
$17.99 US/$22.99 CAN
ISBN: 1487012624

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Cat Conway has had to return to Port Ellis, a small town in Ontario where she spent summers as a child. She has not returned willingly, however. Cat was until recently a newswoman on network TV. But when she fought back at a young man who thought it funny to harass her during a street taping, many women may have cheered but her employers fired her. Now the only job she can find is with the Quill &Packet the local Port Ellis paper and it is breathing its last. In fact, Cat has to take a part-time restaurant job to make ends meet.

Her current assignment is, however, like one she might have done previously. She is interviewing Eliot Fraser, a well-known if ageing leading man, who is to open the season as the lead in Inherit the Wind. Eliot seems to have learned nothing from the fate of Harvey Weinstein as he makes some pathetically crude advances that Cat has little trouble fending off. Cat will not need to keep up her defences in regard to Eliot, however. Before he gets to speak a line on opening night, he suffers an attack of some kind and dies shortly thereafter. He has been murdered.

Cat quite rapidly has to use the investigative skills she developed as a reporter to solve the crime, not just because she is primed to, but because she is under some suspicion herself and, even more urgently, someone, presumably the actual culprit, is making attempts on her life.

So far, BURY THE LEAD sounds like a book that follows a standard outline for a small-town cozy, and to a large degree, that is the case. But the authors are both very experienced writers and clearly are taking their project seriously. Kate Hilton has three successful books to her credit, while Elizabeth Renzetti was a columnist on the Globe & Mail for many years as well as an award-winning writer for her feminist books. The two women share a fondness for mystery stories and decided to write one while at some loose ends thanks to the covid epidemic.

The result is this first in a projected series. It may have a conventional small-town setting, but the writing is big-city. The protagonist is in her forties, divorced, and mother of an adolescent son who likes his father better. The small town is superficially perfect: "Picture postcard panoramas, Chardonnay on the dock, fresh-baked pies and laid-back luxury. If you looked carefully, though, it was like peering into the lake; watery depths full of warped shapes and wriggling slimy life."

I am glad the authors have decided on a series and look forward to the next installment. Their collaboration is seamless - one never senses that there are two pens at work. My only concern is the limits of their setting. While a small town can provide a cast of characters with all the complexity and interest of a metropolis, too many murderers and too many victims can be embarrassing.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal. She's been editing RTE since 2008.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, February 2024

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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