Andrew Pyper. The Guardians. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2011.
The paranormal is not my cuppa, something I should have remembered from reading Pyper's Killing Circle. There's no question the author is very good at this genre; his grasp of the psychological effects on witnesses in the story is excellent. It's a mystery tale as well ― boyhood friends return to small-town Ontario for a funeral only to face their mutual past secrets. Then a woman disappears and history seems to repeat itself. If Trevor, Randy, and Carl help the police, they will have to reveal old crimes. But they discover the first crime was even before their time. The story is structured between the present-day and Trevor's re-creating a diary of the past.
Object of boyhood fear:
The Thurman house was no different in its construction than any of other squat, no-nonsense residences it shared Caledonia Street with, two rows of Ontario re-brick built at the last cebntury's turn for the towns first doctors, solicitors and engineers. So why did it stand out for us? What made it the one and only haunted house in Grimshaw for our generation? Its emptiness was part of the answer. Houses can be in poor repair, ugly and overgrown, but this makes them merely sad, not the imagined domicile of phantoms. Vacancy is an unnatural state for a still-habitable home, a sign of disease or threat, like a pretty girl standing alone at a dance. (91)
Trevor struggles with Parkinson's:
It's my legs ― kicking and side-swinging worse than at any other point since my arrival in Grimshaw ― that seem to know I'm going to Sarah's before I do. I must now appear, as one of my doctors said I would eventually, as a "top-heavy drunk," leaving my shoe prints on dew-sodden lawns. You'd think, in my condition, presenting myself before a woman I like would be a bad idea. But the thing is, I don't have time to wait for good ideas anymore. (306)
Mark Billingham. From the Dead. Toronto: McArthur & Company, 2010.
Despite the publisher's blurbs, I find DI Thomas Thorne is not as engaging as, say, Rebus (Rankin) or Banks (Robinson). Meaning I didn't enjoy this as much as Billingham's Rush of Blood which is not in the Thorne series. Nevertheless, From the Dead is an unusual crime story. New information re-opens an old case when the convict Donna is released from prison. Was the wrong man killed? Her intended victim is alive and mocking police efforts in England and Spain. Tracing the actual victim's identity looks hopeless. To complicate matters, her daughter disappears. Donna hires would-be private eye Anna Carpenter to help her.
Anna latches onto DI Thorne to his chagrin but with the blessing of his superiors, Brigstocke and Jesmond. We see how this new association affects Thorne's bumpy relationship with girlfriend Louise. The policeman is mentally suffering over the jury's acquittal of a dangerous felon in a prior case; Thorne's evidence had not been strong enough for a conviction. He agonizes about unsolved cases of missing and/or assaulted women. But it's as if he does more observing than detecting. Donna triggers the climax, not unexpectedly, but Billingham provides a great anti-climactic ending.
Anna makes a career decision:
Her father did not often lose his temper, and seeing him looking so lost, so genuinely confused, when Anna announced that she had thrown in her job at the bank had been hugely upsetting. She felt ashamed just thinking about it; prickling with sweat and as close to tears as he had been when she'd told him.
"What are we supposed to think, your mum and me?"
Her mother had slowly risen from her seat as soon as Anna had begun saying her piece, but had made no response. She had just stared, red-faced and breathing noisily, as thought she were trying her very best not to march across the carpet and slap her daughter. (32)
"Have fun with young Miss Marple," Brigstocke said.
Thorne took his tea and sandwiches and swore loudly enough to provoke disgusted looks from the elderly couple across the aisle when Anna told him there was no change from his tenner. He sugared his tea and lowered his voice and said, "So, what the hell was all that about back there?"
"I told you not to say anything."
"Come on, I couldn't just sit there like a plank," Anna said. "It would have looked really strange."
"I don't care how it would have looked. I was there to question a potentially crucial witness and you were there to observe, that's all. I did not want you chipping in."
"I thought we made a good team."
"We're not any sort of team," Thorne said.