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by John Moss
Castle Street Mysteries, September 2008
343 pages
$11.99 CAD
ISBN: 1550027905

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When detectives David Morgan and Miranda Quin are called to the scene in Toronto's exclusive Rosedale area, the death looks pretty straight forward. Lawyer Robert Griffin has apparently drowned himself in the ornamental fishpond where he keeps his prized Japanese Koi. Eleanor Drummond, an elegant woman at the scene and Griffin's self confessed mistress, coolly dismisses the notion of suicide in favor of murder, well aware that she is the chief suspect.

When Quin returns to her apartment that evening, she finds a disturbing document from the deceased that not only reminds her of a prior university association between them, but names her executrix of his will and caregiver to his fish. That effectively takes Quin off the case and leaves Morgan to investigate the mistress, who may have witnessed Griffin's signature on the will, but has no traceable identity. "It's like she's Griffin's creation." Morgan complains.

Unfortunately, Morgan's questions go unanswered when he and Quin revisit the lawyers home and find Eleanor newly dead in a deliberate and gruesome act of Seppuku - the ritualistic act of self disembowelment . At Drummond's autopsy, Quin and Morgan meet a young woman who may be able to provide some much needed information. She's the daughter of Molly Bray, alias Eleanor Drummond. Now Morgan has a new lead and Miranda reluctantly explores the connections she has shared with Griffin in the past.

John Moss has chosen an interesting way to portray his detectives. Although this is the first book featuring these characters, Moss alludes to a decade of partnership between the two which feels perfectly natural. Mosses' writing is as lush as the Canadian fall setting and as exotic as the Koi themselves. The book is brimming with imagery and he writes wonderfully clever dialogues between Quin and Morgan. They put me in mind of Reginald Hill's Daziel and Pascoe, or perhaps the clever cocktail commentary of Hammett's Thin Man duo, Nick and Nora Charles.

Although I found the writing smooth and evocative, I thought the book more general fiction with a mystery, since the mystery took a back seat to the characters and settings.

It was like a mystery nouvelle cuisine - beautifully presented and very good, but not enough to satisfy reading hunger. On one hand, you could hardly call this book a police procedural as there are few scenes set anywhere even close to the detachment. Yet the final pages of the book, where Quin and Morgan separately reach identical solutions to the murder, are extremely well written. My favourite element in the book was the irony of Quin's almost dying of dehydration in a story so full of water imagery. I look forward to another Quin and Morgan mystery, especially if Moss gives us a bigger helping of plot.

Reviewed by Merrill Young, October 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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