A double whammy. Isn't it perfect when two of a series fortuitously segue?
Inger Ash Wolfe. The Calling. Orlando, FL: Harcourt. 2008.
I happened on a hardcover sitting on the informal circulation table downstairs: someone wrote on the endpaper: "A lot of Blood & Gore - couldn't finish reading it." Sounded promising. The publication page was missing, so a little research revealed the details plus the fact that the author was using a nom de plume. His real name is Michael Redhill which still didn't mean anything to me but I came to admire his art of creating mood and arcane bits of information.
The initial scenes in the novel were somewhat reminiscent of Giles Blunt---small-town Northern Ontario and engaging police characters. Hazel is the late-middle-age Detective Inspector in charge of an investigation that will shatter more than some bones. Her co-workers and her family life, consisting primarily of a mouthy mother and a wary ex-husband, all fall into auspicious place. But her antagonist is truly a madman, and that's where I felt a disconnect. I wanted a serial killer with less eschatology and clearer motivation. Goes to show, criminals in real life don't necessarily conform to formulas so why should they in literature. It must be hard enough for a writer to balance morbid obsession with "normal" people in creating such an aberrant character.
Trying to conquer her back pain, Hazel reflects:
"Murder, she thought. And not just murder, a lunatic murder. And God invoked. And the rest of the country tied to them in it, even if they didn't know it. This was the stuff of movies, of third-hand tales. Even as an end to it all (an unhappy end, it would appear) came closer, it seemed less and less real to her. A symptom, perhaps, of her experience with ordinary disasters. Divorce, pain, parenting an unhappy daughter. Nothing, not even a life in law enforcement, could prepare you for the wild imaginings some people, in their passionate madness, could unleash." (296)
Her colleague has a bad day on the road:
"He hung up and sat on the bed. The rain was a grey curtain beyond the window; it came down with the kind of ferocity he associated with the countryside, as if the man-made obstacles in cities somehow broke up storms like this and reduced them to a simulacrum of bad weather. Here it was awesome; it felt as if the lightning could pierce the building and pick him out of his supposed safety."This thought led somewhere painful for him, and he pushed himself off the bed. There were many presumed sanctuaries in one's life, and none of them were completely impermeable." (196)
Inger Ash Wolfe. The Taken. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2009.
The second in Redhill's series came into my public library so fast after ordering it, the thought was that no-one else is reading him. While the sheer mania of the perpetrator in The Calling put me off, there's no denying Wolfe/Redhill has an exceptional detective character in Hazel Micallef. This novel has less gore and is very satisfying in its twists and turns. Hazel's cases to date are on the sensational scale for a small-town cop, but it's her intuitive methodology that keeps the reader engrossed and guessing.
In The Taken, we find layers of motivation and action in a kidnapping and perhaps a cold case murder. Someone is using high-tech equipment to monitor Hazel's whereabouts. Scenes shift from rural holiday lakes to downtown Toronto. Conflicting police departments add to the tension. There's even some word play puzzle to confuse the trail further. The author uses the evocative word horripilating and that exactly describes a scene in a helicopter. Getting to know Hazel and the team behind her, not to mention many minor players, bodes well for the projected series; as police "procedurals" they seem to be breaking new ground.
"The box he digs up in the backyard is 'damaged,'" said Hazel. "It might mean something.""He's doing the crossword at the beginning, isn't he?" said Costamides. They all flipped back to the first page of chapter four. "'Damaged' is the clue." She looked up. "What's a word that means 'damaged'?""Broken," said Wingate. "Smashed.""Something that's been 'damaged' isn't necessarily completely ruined.""Damn it," said Hazel. "I know what it is." They all looked at her. "It's a cryptic clue, like for a crossword. Damaged or broken or messy - words like that - they signal anagrams."They all turned their eyes back on the page. "Surely we're not thinking the whole thing is, like, a palindrome?" said Fraser."No," she said. "But something has to be rearranged before it makes sense. A detail or a word." (193-194)
A tight spot:
The pressure on her forehead made her eyes water. She felt her mind emptying out. She took his wrist in both her hands, as if she were holding the gun in place against her own head. "I don't need your demons to see clearly," she said. "I have my own."She heard a click and wondered if, in her last moment on earth, the world was breaking up into parts. First the trigger, then the firing pin, the contact and the flare and the sound of the bullet firing, all of it in discrete sequence, and she wondered if she'd be able to feel the nose of the bullet at the instant it touched her, right before it entered her: an atom of steel against an atom of flesh. (319-320)