“Gradually, as he sat thinking, it occurred to George that to give himself up was pointless. Even stupid. When they caught up with him, fine. He’d go to trial and prison without complaining, with dignity, even, if he could manage it. But to spend any more time locked up than was absolutely necessary – it made no sense.”
The author had captured me and I had to know what happened to George.
The investigation is led by Staff Sergeant Karl Alberg of the Sechelt Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). He has been recently transferred to the quiet seaside town on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, a lovely area a ferry ride from North Vancouver.
Alberg is a thorough dedicated lonely police officer. His marriage has just collapsed. His daughters are both in university in Calgary 1,500 km away. Evenings in his small house are long.
Local librarian, Cassandra Mitchell, is 41 and single in a town with few male options in which she is interested. Taking action she takes out personal ads in a major daily, the Vancouver Sun, inviting suitable men to contact her. She travels into Vancouver to the paper’s office to pick up the envelopes in reply. The results of the first ad produced some dates but no relationships. The responses to the second ad include a letter from Alberg.
Mitchell and Alberg commence a halting relationship amidst the murder investigation.
As Alberg and his officers patiently assemble information the reader learns more about George and Carlyle. They become real persons. Both had come to British Columbia from Saskatchewan.
The tension is subtle but incredible. Will the RCMP be able to determine that George is the killer?
George maintains his life going to the library and working in his lush and beautiful garden. He responds to police inquiries. He thinks constantly about what he has done.
Wright has challenged the reader. Do I want Alberg to solve the case? I found myself in conflict. George committed murder but he is a good man. It has been a long time since an author created a killer I found as interesting as the deceased and the sleuth.
I found myself thinking about the characters of killer, deceased and police officer differently from most crime fiction. Wright’s approach is completely different from Michael Connelly with whom readers usually know little, if anything, of the killer until late in the book. Having the killer known from the first page brings readers into the heart and mind of George.
The book was comparable to the experience I have reading disclosure in a real life criminal case. I know what the accused has told me before I read what the police have done. In the disclosure I follow how the police investigation has unfolded and how they put the case together that has produced the charge against my client.
While I have never been to the Sunshine Coast the sense of the place is beautifully evoked by Wright. Barely touched by Canadian winters the area is a warm inviting part of our country.
It was no surprise at the end of the book to learn it had won an Edgar in 1986 for Best Novel. I will return to the Sunshine Coast to read more of Karl Alberg. (Mar. 31/12) (Possible Best of 2012)