The Lucky Elephant Restaurant by Gary Ryan (2006) - Lane is a Calgary detective. His partner on the force is Harper. His partner at home is Arthur.
Arthur’s sister, Martha, has breast cancer which is probably terminal. She is recently separated from her domineering husband. Their son, Matthew, is 15 with some co-ordination issues, likely from cerebral palsy. With Martha hospitalized Lane and Arthur take Matt into their home. Having no children of their own they are excited and nervous about having a son.
At work Lane and Harper are assigned a missing persons investigation, Kaylie, 4 years old, has been taken from Bobbie, her mother. Her father, Charles, is also missing.
Bobbie is a well known radio host in Calgary whose tag line, “It’s Bobbie. Speak to me.” is known by everyone.
Her younger brother, Jay, is living out of his car while attending university.
The book enters into complex social issues and stereotypes.
The assignment becomes a murder investigation when Kaylie and Charles are found dead in his vehicle near Calgary. The public assessment is a murder / suicide.
Yet forensics raise troubling issues about how the two of them died.
Reports trickle in that the grieving Bobbie in private is far different from her public personna.
Pressure builds from the community, especially her listeners and fellow church members, to leave Bobbie alone.
Bobbie asserts the police are victimizing a grieving mother.
Lane, a figure skater as a youth, becomes a hockey referee to help out Matt’s hockey team. A referee in figure skates draws attention.
Jay is befriended by Tony, a member of the Calgary Vietnamese community, after standing up for Tony. Uncle Tran, the owner of the The Lucky Elephant Restaurant, takes an interest in Jay and helps him out financially.
With Martha’s precarious health should Matt stay with his gay uncles or return to live with a distant father.
Martha’s strong Christian faith is a challenge for Lane.
Easy assumptions are challenged.
Ryan uses real Calgary locations. I can see exactly where Lane and Harper are going as they drive about the city and have coffee at their regular coffee shop.
I wished there had been more back story on the characters.
It has been some time since I read crime fiction where the mystery is not who but can the police prove who did it.
I thought of Anthony Bidulka’s sleuth, Russell Quant, as I read about Detective Lane. They are alike in being gay detectives, police and private respectively, in Western Canada. Each is out. Both enjoy life. They differ in that Lane has the partner Russell wants in his life through the series.
The Lucky Elephant Restaurant is a good book. I plan to read more in the series.