What Lies Beneath the Surface is Deep
A B.C. Blues Crime Novel (Dundern, 2017)
review by Colleen Tsoukalas
Undertow is Canadian, local to West Coasters and written by a woman who has many years of experience working in the court system. The language of the detectives, and the criminals: psychopaths, sociopaths and even those close to the line, is authentic and consistent throughout the novel. Horrendous crimes, those on the front page, are committed and solved, although there is always one still in the shadows, leaving a question: what lies buried in that gravel pit, and what secrets is Dion taking with him into novel number three?
I am fascinated with Dion, brilliant but encumbered by a head injury that is slow to heal and causes lingering problems with memory and self confidence. Still, he is sure of his gut instincts and highly creative strategies for getting in with the wrong crowd and finding the answers. He spends a lot of time posing in the mirror, building an illusion, as he calls it, yet really, he is preparing for the many roles he will need to take on to be an effective detective, a leader, a team player, a friend, and yes, more: “He sat down, looked across the table at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and all his neatly aligned data points scattered.” P/128
I have met Dave Leith before, too: solid, older, methodical, both frustrated with and amazed by Dion, not looking forward to having to work with a rogue cop and his unconventional methods, all while working so hard to get what he considers very important, done. He looks at the mirror, too. Bosko, head of the team, seems happy and settled, unlike Dion and Leith, who are looking for more solid ground, always somewhere else than where they are. They wonder about him though, Dion thinking he is being investigated and Leith finding it difficult to fit in. The characters have depth and complexity and keep the reader guessing what will happen next.
Nature, the trees and dark forests are menacing. This time, so is the sea, smooth as glass for a fast boat ride, or angry, churning and cold for anyone overboard. Look into the sea’s mirror and see yourself as captain, champion swimmer, surfer or not. And what is slowly sinking now, later to be in the net? Message in a bottle or unknown body?
This is an absorbing read and goes quickly. Still just had to read it again to enjoy that fabulous description of local scenery and setting, clever use of chapter titles that begin with Bitter End and continue with hints of what’s to come: Light and Shadow, Current, Echoes, Moody Breeze and the final one: Twist.
So are the diamonds and emeralds real? Is the Queen of Whatever, seaworthy? And does the land of Oz really exist? Where is the beach safest and where is home? All questions that may be further investigated by reading Undertow!
Colleen Tsoukalas is a crime novel enthusiast and blogger at www.clotheslinefinds.com
Rachel M. Greenaway’s previous novel, Cold Girl, is reviewed here: www.clotheslinefinds.com/2016/05/cold-girl-bc-blues-crime-novel-by-rm.html