Retired psychiatrist Samuel Rosenthal is beaten to death late one Saturday night in an Ottawa alleyway. Officially the case is being investigated by Sergeant Marie Claire Levesque, new to the Ottawa Police, and she becomes convinced the doctor was killed as part of a mugging gone wrong. A group of black youths was spotted on a surveillance camera and Levesque spends her energies on tracking them down. Her boss, Inspector Michael Green, is not sure the case is as clear cut and he also starts to investigate the case, enjoying the feel of being back out in the field. He tackles several lines of enquiry including the notion that Rosenthal was killed by one of his former patients or possibly even his own estranged son. Green and Levesque disagree on process and priorities for most of the novel which impacts the investigative process at several points in the story.
I found this a fairly confusing book to read, with an over-abundance of plot lines that all received fairly cursory attention. For my enjoyment the book would have been better served by focusing more in-depth on a couple of these only, though I’m sure this is a matter of personal preference. An aspect that really grated on my nerves was the inclusion of the possibility that the motivation for the crime was one young Muslim man’s extreme fundamentalism. There is absolutely no evidence of any such thing and the thread peters out into nothing at all, but that didn’t stop Inspector Green throwing out a few random “facts” about Muslim extremism. The young man in question was born in Somalia and had experienced sustained violent abuse at the hands of a parent and the case does touch on the possibility that this upbringing had an unexpected impact on the boy but there was plenty of scope for this to be explored in more depth rather than yet another go-round of the ‘Muslim = terrorirst’ theme. I can’t even begin to imagine how truly awful it must be for the vast majority of Muslims who are perfectly normal, well-adjusted people to have their religion automatically linked with the notion of terrorism whenever it is mentioned.
This is the seventh book of the Inspector Green series and I did feel a bit like I was attending a party uninvited as there were a fair few oblique references to past events. That aside though the focus on the personal lives of the various members of the team was a stronger element of the novel, though I must admit to finding Green both unlikeable and not entirely convincing. At one point for example he his indirectly responsible for the death of an innocent young girl and is at least partially to blame for the heart attack of a colleague. He seems to shrug off both of these events with only the most cursory of nods to any emotional impact on himself and neither incident changes the man’s behaviour at all. I found this a little hard to swallow.
In the end I suppose this was a perfectly serviceable police procedural but I didn’t find anything in it that stood out our would make me want to read more of the series. I do appreciate this is probably at least partly a result of coming to the series so late but I do think a series should be able to be joined at any point in its progress.
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This Thing of Darkness has been reviewed at Reviewing the Evidence
Apart from a liberal use of the words loonie and toonie I didn’t notice anything particularly Canadian about the novel, but I’m counting this as book 2 of the North American leg of my Global Reading Challenge for the year
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My rating 2.5/5
Publisher Napoleon and Co (this digital edition 2009)
Length 344 pages
Format eBook (ePub)
Book Series #7 in the Inspector Green series
Source I bought it