Friday, October 16, 2015

Review of Sign of the Cross by Anne Emery (ECW Press, 2006)

Tired of working legal aid, Monty Collins transferred to private practice, losing his wife and custody of his two kids in the process.  After a young woman connected to a Catholic youth group is murdered, his boss asks him to look after the interests of a local priest who has become a suspect in the case.  Brennan Burke is a difficult man to represent, especially since he is open with the police but has a habit of concealing information that might prove useful for Monty.  As the case against Burke seems to strengthen, Monty struggles to construct a defence or to determine who might have a vendetta against the priest.  What he does discover though is that Burke has a colourful past and plenty of skeletons in the closet.  Then a second body is discovered that also points towards Burke and a trial is inevitable.  Monty is fairly certain his client is innocent, but he’s not at all convinced that he’ll be able to persuade a jury to share his view.

Sign of the Cross is the first book in the Monty Collins series set in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Collins is a lawyer who’s been playing in a blues band since his university days and is separated from his sharp-tongued, law professor wife.  In this first outing he’s trying to defend a bullish but charismatic priest who is suspected of committing murder, who is fairly uncooperative and parcels out information only when forced to.  Interestingly, the only character I had difficulty fully believing in was Monty, who seemed a bit lost and a bit pastiche.  His acerbic wife, his kids, and the characters based around the church all seemed more coherent.  This might partially be the artefact of the first person tense, but was more than that I feel; he just felt a little unsubstantial.  The plot is a somewhat hesitant to begin with, but gains shape and direction as it unfolds.  With regards to the mystery, Emery manages to keep a number of suspects in the frame, though the denouement was no great surprise.  At the end I was turning the pages as much to see how the relationships between the characters turned out as the tale, especially Burke and Monty’s wife.  Overall, a fairly run-of-the-mill mystery, lifted by the supporting characters.

1 comment:

Mathew Paust said...

Your review makes "run-of-the-mill" sound compelling.