Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review of Lunenburg by Keith Baker (2000, Headline)

Thirty years ago a teenage boy paddles to an island to spy on a local woman.  As he watches her have sex with one of her two lovers, the other slips into the house.  Later the first man is found with the knife in his hand, the woman stabbed to death.  Rather than admit his presence the boy keeps his silence, but now with terminal cancer and the man convicted of the woman’s murder recently freed, he considers confronting him with his secret.  But before he has chance to do so, he’s murdered, as is a private investigator hired to check him out.  Detective Annie Welles of the Halifax Regional Police is determined to try and solve the murders.  However, her home life is a disaster and she’s fallen out with one of her senior colleagues, who is quite happy to sideline her, especially if it aids his own career prospects.  While all the attention is focused on finding the recently released convict, Welles joins forces with a Scottish journalist, John Taggart, in Nova Scotia to cover a royal visit, to pursue her own investigation.

Lunenberg is a police procedural set in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that follows the exploits of Detective Annie Welles as she tries to solve two murders that seem to have their roots in an another murder thirty years previously.  Welles is an interesting character, playing the role of the downtrodden but feisty female cop who pursues her own investigations in the face of sexist sidelining.  She’s joined by a number of nicely penned characters and Baker provides a reasonable sense of place for Halifax and Lunenberg.  Where the book struggles, however, is with respect to the plot, which has both holes in it (such as why the witness held his silence for thirty years) and is driven forward by an endless succession of plot devices, especially contrived presences and absences and an abundance of coincidences.  The result is a tale that simply doesn’t ring true and denouement that felt contrived and weak.  Overall then, while the characters had potential, in my view the plot let the story down.

No comments: