The Dells

The Dells

By Elspeth Redmond

A review of The Dells by Michael Blair

Published on May 1, 2008

The Dells
Michael Blair

The Dundurn Group
$12.99
paper
398pp
978-1-55002-725-5

Michael Blair has written a meaty and accomplished novel in The Dells, his fourth mystery and his second in the Joe Shoe Series.

Private investigator Joe Shoe is back in Downsview, North Toronto from Vancouver. He has returned for the weekend to see his parents and to attend an event organized by his sister as a homecoming for the suburban community in which they grew up. Immediately upon arrival he begins to suspect that an unsolved murder and a string of rapes that happened 35 years ago, when he was a teenager, are causing havoc in the here and now.

The body of a recently murdered man, who moved away while still a suspect in these old cases, has just been discovered in the ravine behind Joe’s parents’ house, in the wooded conservation area where the original crimes took place.

Joe Shoe is a most satisfying protagonist: lanky, laconic, noirish, protective of the vulnerable, slow to anger but a fearsomely effective fighter once provoked. His disciplined, decent, slightly remote personality stands in dramatic contrast to the crowd he grew up with, who are shown to be seething with uncontrollable lust, greed, alcoholism, and other depravities. Dark secrets are uncovered in the course of this mystery that will radically change Joe’s view of the past and those closest to him.

The action of the novel takes place during one long weekend in August. Blair successfully orchestrates lively scenes among a sprawling cast of well-differentiated characters: old lovers, former teachers, siblings, in-laws, various low-lifes, members of the police force and old-timers. All this is interspersed with flashbacks as the past comes to light. There is plenty of violence, and the fight scenes are particularly cinematic and very believable in their detail. It’s all a bit like watching The Sopranos – great stuff, but definitely not for the squeamish. mRb

Elspeth Redmond is a Baie d'Urfe writer and reviewer.

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