The book commences with a flourish. Gail’s first victim, Andy Boychuk, is a thinly disguised former Ukrainian Saskatchewan Premier. At a political picnic on a hot Saskatchewan summer day Andy is about to speak when he collapses on the platform. He has been poisoned by potassium cyanide.
(Life is filled with coincidences. Out of the 600 books read I think two have involved killings by potassium cyanide with both read within a month. Death at La Fenice was my 596th book. Adding to the coincidence it was written a few years apart about 20 years ago.)
Herself a recent grieving widow, Joanne does her best to help Andy’s widow, Eve, cope with her husband’s death. It is not easy dealing with the solitary Eve who has resolutely stayed deep in the background during her husband’s lengthy political career.
Drawing on her experiences in Saskatchewan politics on behalf of the New Democratic Party Gail’s story features the politicians and families of our social democratic party in the mystery. (The victim is the only real politician I recognized in the book.) Saskatchewan has long had a prominent left of center party sometimes veering to socialism while at other times near the middle of the political spectrum.
Bowen cleverly gives Joanne the opportunity to delve into Boychuk’s past life by having Joanne decide to write a biography of the deceased party leader. Who can resist questions from a friendly biographer?
As she searches into his life she uncovers secrets about Boychuk. All of us have secrets. Most of us are glad no one will probe deeply into our lives. Her image of her friend is changed.
Within her own family Joanne is also coping with change. Her daughter, Mieka, has finished high school and is leaving home to attend university. While glad her sons, Peter and Angus, remain at home it is hard for Joanne to see her oldest start a new life. Joanne struggles with Mieka choosing to spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend’s family rather than going with Joanne to visit family friends.
Joanne is an unusual sleuth in that she maintains a normal family life with its pains and pleasures while solving a mystery. It is almost unique in that Joanne is not pursuing the killer. She is seeking information for her biography rather than evidence to find the murderer.
The pace and tension rise steadily through the book. As the end approaches I found myself racing through the pages.
I do not often re-read books. Going back to read again the first Joanne Kilbourn mystery was to fall in love again with a series. After a dozen books it was wonderful to discover the series again. Gail creates interesting complex characters. It was a wonderful book to mark 600 books. Great!
The book will also count as my second book in the 5th Canadian Book Challenge hosted by John Mutford at the Book Mine Set blog. I have now reached the Grand Lake level (2 of 13) (July 25/11)