Fiction

No Yellow Brick Road

In the brief space of three years Montreal lawyer Peter Kirby has found time to turn out yet another in his fine series of novels featuring Montreal Detective Inspector Luc Vanier, and each new addition is more assured, and more compelling, than the last.

What sets Kirby’s work apart from many other crime novels is that mere plot is never enough; character is key. This allows the author to explore troubling social themes such as the treatment of the homeless, the clash of cultures in Montreal’s diverse communities, international human trafficking, and of course the inevitable conflicts that occur within policing circles when agencies compete for jurisdiction on a case, or worse, want to sweep it under the table. In Open Season, Kirby draws on current events to reveal a great deal about contemporary Canadian life, and as we have come to expect, his graphic account pulls no punches.

Open Season
Peter Kirby

Linda Leith Publishing
$16.95
paper
300pp
978-1-927535-78-3

Katya Babyak finds herself locked in a run-down apartment in Rotterdam, with only an occasional sandwich and a bottle of water for company. It is the first leg of her journey from Kiev to Canada, running from a past without promise and only memories of pain. When she finally arrives in Montreal, it’s not long before she discovers what others have in mind for her, and it’s not her dreamed-of new life as a nanny for an upscale Canadian family. She’s to work in the sex trade, effectively indentured to thugs who keep her in bondage.

While Katya struggles to salvage her life, another crisis is unfolding in Montreal. A Guatemalan journalist named Sophia Luna has been fighting her own extradition as she works on a story to document the illegal trafficking in sex workers to Canada. She is fighting her deportation with the help of Roger Bélair, a Montreal lawyer. But before he can do anything she’s snatched off the street and Bélair is injured, in plain sight of eyewitnesses. Soon afterwards the lawyer dies and his office is ransacked. Her captors are working quickly and ruthlessly to ensure the story stops there. Converging plotlines elevate the novel from what might have been a routine police procedural to a fast-paced suspense tale.

Enter Detective Inspector Luc Vanier. Vanier and his partner Sergeant Sylvie Saint Jacques of the Montreal-based Serious Crime Squad have been assigned the kidnapping case. The details of Vanier’s personal life – including his romantic relationship with pathologist Anjili Segal and his concern for his son Alex, a war-traumatized Afghanistan veteran – provide a further layer to Kirby’s solid and engaging tale.

Open Season is a gritty narrative of the plight of vulnerable people trying to carve out a better life for themselves, but who wind up being imprisoned and exploited by hardened criminals who tempt them with the promise of a new beginning. It’s definitely not a yellow brick road they embark on, and few of its travellers will ever find their way back to Kansas. Along their journey Kirby offers an informed critique of Canada’s flawed refugee policy and shines a revealing spotlight on the federal authorities whose job it is to enforce it.

Is it too early in the series to call Open Season a breakout novel? Kirby’s two previous Vanier stories were also deftly crafted, well-told tales, but his latest work steps up the intrigue several notches, resulting in a perfectly plotted, nicely paced, edge-of-your seat thriller that also has gravitas; and it has all the earmarks of a winner. Open Season may quite possibly be one of the best Canadian crime novels of 2015. mRb

Jim Napier’s reviews have appeared in several Canadian newspapers and on his own award-winning website, Deadly Diversions.

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