Rouleau leads a small group that has been created from Major Crimes with an ill-defined role within the department.
The unit is assigned to investigate the murder of prominent Ottawa businessman, Tom Underwood. He has frozen to death after being drugged and dumped into the trunk of his car. He had come to and attempted to claw his way out of the trunk but succumbed to the cold. It is a vicious form of murder that is all too realistic to Canadians. (Whatever verb of reaction I think of appears a pun. I had thought of the murder sending a “chill” through me or “shivers” up my spine.)
Kala is the first female indigenous sleuth in my reading of Canadian crime fiction. She is a slim, good looking woman. Her difficult past, including foster homes, has left her reserved.
She misses the North:
They were deep in the new subdivision named Chapman Mills on Haileybury Street. The houses were so close together, people had to walk single file to get between them. It was hard to believe anyone liked living in a place where they couldn’t see the stars at night.
Rouleau is divorced and almost a generation older. He is on good terms with his ex-wife. He speaks to Kala about his life:
“I had my chance. If I could pass on any advice, it would not to let the job take over. You can lose too much.” He smiled wryly although his eyes were sad. She found herself liking him at that moment, a wounded man who didn’t wallow in it.
Would that more crime fiction sleuths “didn’t wallow”.
The investigation proceeds through Christmas with the officers being human. They work but not obsessively and do take time off for the holiday.
Underwood appears to have been ready to make some major changes in his life providing a large pool of suspects. Both business associates and family members have motives for murder.
While doing her duty in the murder investigation, Kala has actually come to Ottawa to search for her cousin, Rose, who has disappeared from her life. Kala is anxious to find Rose.
Beyond the murder being quintessentially Canadian the weather plays a constant role. Canadians are always conscious of winter weather. Whether it is the special crunch to the snow of real cold or the extra time needed to get vehicles going and warmed up Chapman seamlessly works weather into the story.
The author also effectively uses Ottawa and area geography. There are many walking trails around the three rivers that flow through the city. Cross country skiing and hiking is a short distance away in Quebec.
It is a solid, not spectacular, police procedural.
I appreciated that Kala and Rouleau neither leap into bed together at the beginning nor the middle nor the end of the book. It was nice to read a book where a woman and a man have a solid professional relationship and can spend time together without sexual involvement. I expect there will be more books in the series. How their relationship progresses will be interesting. Should it become personal it will be more credible for having taken time to develop.
Cold Mourning is one of the five books on the shortlist for the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Mystery Novel in Canada. I am going to work my way through the five books as I did last year. I wanted to complete them before next week’s awards but it will be into June before I am done the shortlist. (May 21/15)