The 7th book which will count towards my Canadian Book Challenge is the newest installment of Vicki Delany’s Constable Molly Smith series and is due for publication on 2 Nov 2010. This pushes me over the half-way point of the challenge.
In the fictional small town of Trafralgar in British Columbia a famous fashion photographer is murdered in his hotel room. At first the town’s small police force requests the help of the Mounted Police for simple manpower reasons but when the wife of their lead investigator, John Winters, falls under suspicion they are forced to rely, seemingly mistakenly, on the impartiality of the outsiders.
I was very angry with John Winters for much of this book. His behaviour upon learning his wife Eliza was under suspicion for the murder was pretty poor, essentially he abandons the woman he has apparently loved for 25 years, and I mentally tut-tutted that I expected better of a man like him. This is not to say his behaviour was unrealistic, I suspect it would be a common response, but says a lot for the way Delany has grown her stock characters over the series that I was disappointed in Winters. I would also have liked to have seen things more from Eliza’s point of view. We do learn a little about her days as a young fashion model when she had a relationship with the murder victim but it would have been nice to see more of her reacting to being under suspicion and having a her husband go AWOL rather than deal with the issue.
Molly Smith is growing into a nicely well-rounded character. Here Delany depicts the difficulty a young woman might face being in the police force. Not only is Molly subject to some pretty juvenile ribbing and even nastier innuendo about her sexual exploits (let’s face it this could happen to any woman in any job) but she also comes under threat from a man she was responsible for jailing who has now been released. Although I’m sure male police officers experience threats and worse from criminals they’ve imprisoned, I suspect for a certain type of man it would be far worse to have been caught by a ‘lowly’ woman and that’s what seems to play out here. Given that Molly is also undergoing some family trauma and experiencing some minor troubles with her fledgling relationship she’s got a lot to handle in this book but works through it all credibly.
The plot itself, including the main mystery as well as a side thread about a series of robberies and a storyline dealing with Molly’s father’s illness, is very sound if not terribly surprising. As always with this series it is the mixture of crime solving and small town life that is appealing as both feed off each other. Although this book doesn’t have quite the social conscience that attracted me to Valley of the Lost, the second book in the series, it is an above average small town police procedural with very engaging characters and a satisfying puzzle to solve. Another point in its favour is that you could easily read it without having read the previous books in the series which is something of a rarity these days and is to be applauded as there are only so many backlists a mystery fan can contemplate.
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My rating 3.5/5
Publisher Poisoned Pen Press 
ISBN 9781590587881 (for the hard cover)
Length 274 pages
Format eBook (PDF, galley)
Source from the publisher via Net Galley