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by Janice MacDonald
Turnstone, October 2011
364 pages
$16.00 CAD
ISBN: 0888013868

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

English Major Randy Craig thinks she has found the perfect gig - working on the Smithsonian Folkways Collection Project at the University of Alberta. A large bequest has been made to the University, specifying the money go to the project, which enables them to hire someone to listen to and catalogue Moses Asch's personal music collection so it can be incorporated into the Smithsonian's data base. A pleasant, well-paid summer job, Randy thinks, and what could be safer? Ah, but author Janice MacDonald has more in store for our heroine, in HANG DOWN YOUR HEAD; the third instalment in the Randy Craig mystery series.

It seems that someone is unhappy about the bequest and threatens to challenge it with the university's lawyers. Randy suspects contractor David Finster, the son of the benefactress, Lillian Finster, until he is found stabbed and hanging at one of his construction sites with a note that reads 'HANG DOWN YOUR HEAD'.

David's sister Barbara, who owns two high-end woman's clothing boutiques, doesn't seem like the type to dirty her hands and appears too well off to need the money. Who then, wants to scuttle the bequest and consequently make Randy unemployed?

This novel is a calm and refreshing read in these days of action-packed mystery thrillers. It's very much an intelligent cosy, similar in style to books by Marianne MacDonald or Gail Bowen - both fellow Canadians. In fact, Janice MacDonald does for Edmonton what Gail Bowen did for Regina, Saskatchewan. She rejects the frozen north stereotype by showing the 'City of Festivals' in all its lazy summer glory.

HANG DOWN YOU HEAD contains loving descriptions of the city in summer- especially of the North Saskatchewan River valley parks system, part of which runs near the University of Alberta campus. Not many people know that the parks in the River Valley were originally laid out by landscape designer Frederick Olmstead (who designed Central Park). I certainly didn't and I am a native Edmontonian. As is MacDonald, so it's no surprise that the book spent more than three months on the Edmonton Journal's Top 10 Booklist.

With this latest book in her series, MacDonald sets a steady pace and achieves a pleasing combination of an academic setting and beautiful scenery for her mystery. She even includes a nod to famous 'folks' at the annual Edmonton Folk Music Festival, where the mystery is resolved.

This book, narrated in Randy's clever inner dialogue, was a pleasure to read. It also makes me want to go back to my roots and re-explore my hometown - in the summer, of course.

Merrill Young lives on an acre in rural Langley, BC where she has given up trying to win the war on clutter, cat hair and blackberry vines, and has settled for losing as slowly as possible.

Reviewed by Merrill Young, May 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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