Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by John McFetridge
Harcourt, July 2008
304 pages
ISBN: 0151014426

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If "Toronto" conjures up an urban stunt double for New York City that's so neat and tidy that it has to import grit for authenticity - think again. John McFetridge gives us a much richer understanding of a diverse and sprawling metropolis where the lives of cops and criminals intersect in complicated ways.

The book opens when a negotiation between a hooker and john is interrupted by a man's body crashing through the car windshield. Police initially suppose the South Asian man threw himself off the top of the adjacent 25-storey apartment building. But when detectives Bergeron and Armstrong check out the roof, they suspect things are a little more complicated. The residents of the high rise slum are growing dope plants in large numbers, the building's superintendent clearly expected the dead man to be someone else, and officers in the narcotics squad are all too eager to have the death declared a suicide and the investigation closed. Something's not right, and whatever it is reaches deep into the shifting boundaries of the gang scene and into the ranks of the police.

While Bergeron and Armstrong try to figure out what happened – and whether the corruption within the force is containable or is about to erupt in a spectacular scandal – a woman living in the high rise who's under house arrest on a narcotics charge encounters a confident stranger who's ready to take on a major role in the local drug scene, though he's a wide-eyed novice. She's drawn to him, even though his brash naiveté is likely to get him killed.

The action seesaws between the police who are looking over their shoulders, nervous about a major shakeup in their own ranks, a cast of criminals vying for control of a lucrative drug market, and criminals who are not so organized. In the course of their work, Bergeron and Armstrong rescue a kidnapped girl and track down a man who has been leaving his wife's body parts around town in garbage bags. Every step of the way, McFetridge is drawing a map of a community that has grown too fast to keep up with itself, that is entangled in old wealth, new poverty, and even newer gentrification. The double helix of twisting plot lines take a breathtakingly cynical turn at the end that's executed with exhilarating skill.

It's natural to compare McFetridge to Elmore Leonard. He has a similar deadpan humor and a knack for evoking complex, three-dimensional lives with just a few lines of dialogue. It would be equally apt to compare his examination of urban life with that of the television series, The Wire, in the way the cops and criminals operate on parallel tracks, crime and big business are synonymous, and the portrait of a city, bit by bit, comes together in all its squalid, teeming glory.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, August 2008

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]