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Review: Maureen Jennings’s Let Darkness Bury the Dead, John McFetridge and Jacques Filippi’s Montreal Noir and Robert Harris’s Munich

Let Darkness Bury the Dead

By Maureen Jennings

McClelland & Stewart, 384 pages, $24.95

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The good news for Detective Murdoch fans is that he's back after a years long absence. But he returns changed, aged and in a whole new world. It's 1917 and the Great War is in its fourth year. Thousands of young men have gone to Flanders for King and Country. One, young Jack Murdoch, is coming home, gassed and shot. He is not the boy who went to war. Jack's transformation is part of the overall plot, which includes dramatic changes in Toronto itself. The novel begins at the under-construction Union Station, soon to be one of the largest of its kind in Canada. It is a statement about Toronto's rising importance and, as a senior detective with the Toronto constabulary, William Murdoch's importance. When a young veteran is found dead, he's on the case. Then another young veteran dies by suicide. Murdoch is forced to face the possibility that his son, Jack, and his friends may have had a role in the deaths. Just what did happen over there in France? This is one of the best in this series.

Montreal Noir

Edited by John McFetridge and Jacques Filippi

Akashic Press, 288 pages, $22.95

The best reason for reading short-story anthologies is to discover new writers. That means searching for talented editors to select the goods and, in this case, John McFetridge and Jacques Filippi have definitely delivered in this elegant collection for the wonderful Akashic city noir series. There are no bad stories here, but there are many standouts. I particularly liked the selections in the section called On The Edge, especially Howard Shrier's Milk Teeth (based in Rue Rachel) and Melissa Yi's The Sin Eaters (featuring Côte-des-Neiges). I also liked Three Tshakapesh Dreams by Samuel Archibald and Wild Horses by Arjun Basu in the Concrete Jungle section. It's worth having this book around for quick reading and rediscovery of old spots in Montreal. It also makes a great little gift for mystery fans, and even those who aren't.

Munich

By Robert Harris

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Random House Canada, 342 pages, $24.95

Last year, Robert Harris focused on the papal conclave to select a new Pope; this year, it's the Munich Conference that Harris takes from a tired paragraph in a dusty history book to a nail-biting suspense novel that shines a whole new light on grey old Neville Chamberlain. In Harris's clever plot, appeasement seems not only sensible but noble, albeit 80 years after the fact. Our man with the British is Hugh Legat, the epitome of the junior civil servant. His German counterpart is Paul Hartmann, rising star of Third Reich foreign policy. While Europe sits on the brink of war over Czechoslovakia, everyone is trying to interpret Hitler's moods and words. One man knows what's happening and he has the papers to prove it. Can he get them to the British in time to make a difference? We all know he doesn't but the thrill here is in the minute details of diplomatic work and in Harris's stunning reconstruction of how it all might have been. I couldn't put it down.

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