When The Music's Over
By Peter Robinson
McClelland & Stewart, 482 pages, $29.95
Long-running series are like comfy slippers. Slide into the story, meet up with the old characters, feel good. But that comfort denies the talent that creates it, and many a series has turned from comfortable to cliché (pace Janet Evanovich and James Patterson). Peter Robinson's Inspector Alan Banks books started out good and, while cozy, remain some of the best writing in crime fiction. When The Music's Over is his 23rd book and there's nothing clichéd or dated about it. The plot is intriguing, based loosely on current events, and the characters continue to evolve. A writer who keeps stories this fresh after 20 books is rare. The story has Inspector Banks promoted to detective superintendent and facing a case with national media attention: A famous comic star is revealed to have serially abused women over decades. Evidence, clues, witnesses – all long buried – are coming to light, along with the glare of media. Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot has her own mystery: a dead 14-year-old girl who was drugged, sexually assaulted, killed and tossed into a lane. While Banks has national media, Cabbot has a village terrified and full of dangerous rumours. Both cases need to be solved fast, but the clues lead to old crimes and dark places. This is one of Robinson's best books.
Lament For Bonnie
By Anne Emery
ECW Press, 332 pages, $26.95
Once again, Anne Emery proves she's one of the best of Canada's new group of crime authors. Lament For Bonnie is a fine mystery with terrific characters and a solid plot, but it's also an exploration of a unique Canadian culture: the Celtic musicians of Cape Breton whose ballads and dances are part of our shared heritage. The story begins with Bonnie MacDonald missing. Bonnie is 12, the talented offspring of clan Donnie, a tightly knit family of fiddlers, dancers, and singers. There are no clues to Bonnie's whereabouts. She disappeared after a family party, no strangers about, no chances of a runaway. Normie Collins is Bonnie's cousin and she may be the one person with insight into Bonnie. But Normie has her own demons, as does her father, lawyer and bluesman Monty Collins. RCMP Sergeant Pierre Maguire has another view altogether on the case. He sees a community hiding secrets, possibly an evil to be exposed and cut out. All three must combine forces to find out what happened to Bonnie and why. This is an irresistible read from start to finish.
The Last Days Of Night
By Graham Moore
Random House, 368 pages, $37
In 1888, Thomas Edison sued George Westinghouse for one billion dollars, claiming Westinghouse had infringed on Edison's light bulb patents. Think that's the opening for a great legal thriller? The Last Days Of Night is a brilliant exploration of that event, along with the cultural, social and financial world that created it and came after. Moore has everything one could wish: Edison the genius as a power-mongering celebrity, Westinghouse the hard-nosed businessman and Nikola Tesla, the eccentric mastermind who worked for and against them both. In the centre, we have the young and ambitious Paul Cravath, a lawyer whose career will be made or lost on the case. Laden with perfect period details, careful research, and more legalese than one can imagine – the words "the" and "a" have depth of meaning I never knew – Moore reconstructs a gaslit world about to end. There is a death on the first page, and it's literally electrifying. This is Moore's second novel and it's the work of a major talent. If you liked The Devil In The White City, you will love The Last Days Of Night.