(30. – 960.) When the Flood Falls by J.E. Barnard – Money, mountain vistas, hockey, art and sex are a potent mystery mix. Jayne has written an impressive first novel.
Strong women dominate When the Flood Falls. A quartet of women are at the heart of her book. Dee and Lacey are wounded souls who have just come out of bad marriages. Jan struggles through every day because of myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic pain fatigue syndrome). Camille is the blonde trophy wife of a retired hockey player.
Lacey McCrae left a marriage that became abusive and quit the RCMP where she was a corporal. More accurately she has fled. Arriving in Alberta with modest work skills and less money she starts to rebuild her life. She re-enters the non-police work force finding employment with another former RCMP officer on the construction of a new Arts Centre and History Museum at Bragg Creek.
Bragg Creek is a real community west of Calgary at the beginning of the foothills to the Rockies. It is in a beautiful area. I find books where I am personally familiar with the setting have a special interest. Having spent some time in Bragg Creek I found her description reflected the community and its geography.
Lacey is invited by her former university roommate, Dee (Deandra Sharon Phillips), to stay at Dee’s massive country home just out of Bragg Creek. While looking to re-connect Dee’s primary motivation is having a former police officer in her home at night. She believes someone is prowling around her home. Dee is also experiencing the drama and trauma of the breakup of her marriage.
The opening exhibition for the new museum - A Century of Western Canadian Hockey - is brilliantly conceived. Hockey is, by far, the dominant sport in Canada. The culture in and around the game can be appreciated by every Canadian.
NHL players are venerated in Canada. Not all deserve such status. Some are self-absorbed young men uncaring in their behavior. Several players are spending part of the summer at Bragg Creek.
One of them, Jarrad Fiske, a few months earlier, recklessy driving near Dee’s home forced her to leap into a ditch and struck and killed her dog. She suffered a broken ankle.
Jan Brenner spends her days watching the neighbourhood from her hillside home. Desperate for something to let her function, rather than merely exist, she is experimenting with dosages of Adderall.
Jayne can skewer the self-inflated. Few books involve the wives and girlfriends of professional athletes. Here, led by former librarian Camille Hardy, are a quintet of blonde and beautiful young women focused on personal beauty and personal satisfaction.
Camille is a trophy wife to regret as she flaunts an affair with a young hockey player. She is also working on being an entitled exasperating volunteer Arts Centre Board director.
I appreciated Jayne challenging cultural assumptions. A lone protester, Eddie Beal, has daily protested the building of the Centre. He argues the land for the Centre and the money spent building the Centre could have been better used to build a chicken processing plant. It would be easy to be dismissive. However, he explains his position:
“Me and Eben wanted a chicken processing plant. Lots of small farmers hereabouts raise their own birds. Need someplace to get them plucked, gutted, and frozen. Right now they’re hauling halfway to Rocky Mountain House.”
Overall, When the Flood Falls has a depth to the story and characters not present enough in crime fiction.
I do have a couple of issues. In a plot driven by intelligent logical investigation the delay in recognizing where the body was located did not make sense to me. As well Dee, Lacey and Jan all have major mental health issues. I wished they were not so severely damaged. Their problems create dramatic opportunities but their fears are so great they challenge credibility at times.
Jayne is a Facebook friend who deals with major health challenges. The route to publication started with When the Flood Falls winning the Unhanged Arthur Award for best unpublished crime fiction in 2016. Still the remainder of the publication journey was difficult. I am glad Jayne was able to get published. She has written a fine book.