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by Garry Ryan
NeWest, October 2013
195 pages
ISBN: 192706340X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The body of Zander Rowe, an eleven year old boy missing for ten years, is discovered in a sort of underground bunker beneath the floor of a Calgary vehicle repair garage. No sooner do Detective Lane and his partner, Keely Saliba, reopen the case than a series of murders begin. All the circumstantial evidence points in the direction of a local kid made good who has garnered awards for his entrepreneurship and philanthropy, but nothing concrete can be found to bring charges against him. The whole procedural follows the traditional paths. What lifts FOXED out of the ordinary is the network of support that the partners have to call upon while seeking evidence.

First, there is family. Lane's is quite unorthodox: two gay fathers, a plucky son with mild cerebral palsy and a wisdom beyond his years, a daughter of mixed-ethnicity finding love with a young man who seems to fit right in. Keely's is Muslim: a traditional father who loves her but disapproves of her life choices, a supportive brother who has suffered from discrimination but trusts her judgment about Lane, and a non-Muslim fiancé who suddenly decides to convert. Almost as important are their friends: those people whom Lane has touched across the years because of his basic goodness and those people who have come to admire Keely's ability to navigate a male world as well as those won over by her empathy for the mistreated.

They need all the help they can get. The sociopath they are pitted against is just plain scary as he begins to spiral out of even self-control, killing gratuitously. Lane moves too slowly to protect his own family, one member of whom is kidnapped (along with his police boss's daughter). But Lane's husband, Arthur, recovering from cancer, provides a solid center, pulling together the information gathered to tease out patterns, thus allowing Lane and Keely space to do the needed legwork. Evil is a reality in Ryan's world, but basic human decency, what we might even label dignity, is stronger.

This is the sixth in the Detective Lane series. The cover carries a blurb taken from my RTE review of SMOKED: "Garry Ryan is one of our finest novelists in any genre." This novel further confirms my opinion. In part, it's the author's blend of the macabre and the hilarious, never more brilliantly pulled off than in the final ironic confrontation with the villain. (I don't ever remember guffawing before at this point in a thriller the way that I did here.) In part it's his ability to take a corner of the natural world and make it memorable—here a mother fox and her den of pups. Curiously, it is even his way of telling his stories by simply plunging you into the action with little background explanation. But above all, it is his characters. One grows to love them, to admire them, and to realize that, as with all people whom one loves, sometimes one wants to shake them. Come to think of it though, the last never happened, not even once, in this novel.

One other reading pleasure comes from the very book itself. NeWest Press uniformly produces some of the most elegant paperback editions on the market today. The joy of holding the volume in one's hands begins with the simple but striking cover, so different from the garish Photoshop images that have become the norm, grows as one opens the book to find an almost abstract closeup of the fox's neck filling the next page, and continues through the reading experience itself. Page design, font chosen, and the obvious meticulous proofreading the book received all contribute to the page-turning delight the story itself offers.

§ Drewey Wayne Gunn's most recent book is a revised edition of THE GAY MALE SLEUTH IN PRINT AND FILM (Scarecrow Press, 2013).

Reviewed by Drewey Wayne Gunn, October 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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