So, yesterday I had the extra-long bus ride and thus was able to finish in their entirety within that time 2 volumes of the Canadian-written and -set backlist mystery/crime/thriller "Reid Bennett" series, by Ted Wood
I'd first read #4 in the series, Fool's Gold
, when it was a freebie giveaway from re-publisher e-Reads during Read an Ebook Week (so regular MR-goers may already have a copy of it somewhere). These, incidentally, cost about $5.99 each regularly and can be taken down to less than $3 using this weekend's Fictionwise 55% off discount coupon
to pick them up MultiFormat and DRM-free
I thought this was supposed to be the "busman's holiday" volume in the series, in which the ex-big-city detective turned small-town police chief and now presumably adjusted to a slower paced, cozier sort of rural ending of life, managed to get in over his head, by having a simple out-of-town death he's asked to investigate as a favour for a friend-of-a-friend turn out to be a tip of the iceberg thing leading to
which he thwarts single-handedly.
After all, Montreal is supposed to be the Paris of North America, and thus correspondingly elevated over the rest of the poor provincial Canadian cities in sophistication for art, culture, cuisine, and crime. And if Bre-X
taught us anything, it's that mining is TOTES SRS BSNS up here in the frozen north.
But no, apparently this happens, if not every book, then in 3 of the 3 which I've read so far.
Anyway, I did think the 4th book promising enough to get the first 2 out from the library's e-book collection.
#1 Dead in the Water
gives the backstory of Reid Bennett in a tiny 2-page prologue. He's an ex-Viet Nam Canadian volunteer war vet trained by the US Marines to kill and kill again, who was hounded out of his Toronto detective job for (gasp!) killing some would-be rapist bikers who Totally Had It Coming in some sort of righteous berserker rage. Because Canada is Soft on Crime and righteous berserker rages from the cops are so totally underappreciated in these parts, eh?
Oh well, it's the 80s. Reagan-mimicking Mulroney years and all that.
Anyway, some indefinite span of time later, Bennett is more-or-less comfily settled into his new job as Police Chief of sleepy vacation-cottage-housing Murphy's Harbour which will shortly grow to have an astonishingly high murder rate for a little rural Ontario backwater with only 2 law enforcement officials (one semi-retired), plus their little dog, too, available for duty.
And so a simple boating accident leads to some missing person's report which leads to a chain of increasingly suspicious deaths which leads to the apparent ultimate set-up of the books established above.
They're really very thriller-esque for police procedurals, with lots of gung-ho action/adventure scenes in the wilderness and dramatic killings and thwartings, though there is an actual mystery in each book for you to try to figure out whodunnit before Bennett stumbles into the final confrontation.
#2 Murder On Ice
continues the pattern, with some seemingly innocuous mishap rapidly convoluting into
This is perhaps the most obviously dated book in the series, with obvious 80s-era privileged middle-class white guy attitudes towards women and minorities on display.
Mind you, the author is trying to portray his lead as a decent, moderately enlightened and sympathetic person in those regards, so it mostly comes out as a mildly condescendingly tolerant "against rape and gay-bashing, but still seeing people in terms of stereotypes (angry man-hating feminists who soften up and become co-operative when they find out he's a Nice Guy™! competent and capable gay guys who are helpful, but can't help flaming like a falling star! natives treated like crap by the system so it's almost inevitable they fall into a life of poverty and crime and resentment, which is such a shame because they're tough and smart and resourceful and could be doing so much better if they only got a halfway decent chance*!)" sort of thing in the 1st person narrative.
And though I award a minor bonus point for having said competent and capable gay guy be a recurring supporting character whom the lead solicits help from and respects, I deduct it for the author also falling into the Too Gay To Function cliché of
. I suppose Anne McCaffrey's not the only author of a previous generation who seems to have missed the fact that Tent Pegs Do Not Work That Way
Aside from that and the "Protest groups are filled with spineless/extremist radicals with little connection to reality. I'm a volunteer Viet Nam war vet, did I mention I'm a volunteer Viet Nam war vet?! Graar! You lazy hippie slackers, off my lawn!" reaction to the apparent culprits, this does have a decent plot which more-or-less hangs together and makes sense.
Honestly, I think Bennett is kind of the Canadian version of a Mary Sue.
He's a homegrown Canadian guy who's so incredibly awesome he got to be a Viet Nam war vet by volunteering when all those lazy draft-dodging actual Americans who themselves could have been Viet Nam war vets were fleeing to Canada! And he was trained to kill by those bastions of toughness, the US Marines! And not even to kill with his bare hands, but with just two fingers! And that made him so incredibly awesome he turned out to be too badass for "Toronto the Good" and had to be banished to the rough and tough countryside where his incredible finger-killin' ways were better appreciated by those wise people who lived closer to the wilderness and far away from that soft-hearted citified political correctness! And so sexy he gets laid with a different reasonably attractive in the right lights (this is Canada, after all) woman every book. Sometimes even two different reasonably attractive in the right lights women in a single book! Though not both at once.
But even there in the wilderness, crime that needed solving recognized his incredible awesome badassedness and thus made a special trip all the way from the big city just to see him
to get solved! And not just home-grown Canadian crime, but also crime all the way from those awesome American States which trained him to kill with just two fingers! And not just those pesky underappreciative Ontario police, but also those awesome Americans end up acknowledging his two-fingered badassedness and kowtowing to him as he solves their crimes. Single-handed! With thoroughly Canadian skidoo chases and thoroughly un-Canadian shoot-outs! And his little dog, too!
Clearly, had he been created in the 90s or 00s, Reid Bennett would have been destined to be the broadcast star of some bastard lovechild hybrid of Due South
and Keen Eddie
where he would radiate awesomeness so awesome that the Americans would take him in so he could solve all their crime with his too badass for Canada ways.
Mind you, since it's American network television, he'd probably have been promptly relegated to being the funny foreign straight-man/comic relief who would occasionally spout nuggets of quaint northern wisdom which he obtained from mushing the sled dogs during the annual polar bear hunt in downtown Saskatoon, so it's probably just as well.
Recommend status: mild-to-medium, I think. These are for the main part decently-written books with reasonably likeable characters (the internal narrative is not actually as bad as you might think based on the above, though he does kind of go on about having been a Viet Nam volunteer war vet) and a general sort of plot pattern which, while a bit over-the-top for a rural Canadian setting, imho, if the books really do go like that for all 10 of them, does have understandable twists and turns and revelations which tend not to resort to deus ex machina
WTFery. But personally, I'm just not really into most police procedurals in the first place, much less grand conspiracy adventure thriller ones, so I ended up liking the more enjoyable ones of these only moderately, and mainly because I gave bonus marks for Being Canadian.
That said, if you got #4 as a freebie during Read an E-Book Week, I'd say it's worth your time to try out. And as I mentioned, these can be gotten fairly cheaply and DRM-free when Fictionwise has the good coupons, so if you're more of an action/adventure police crime thriller aficionado, they'll probably be good value if it turns out you like what you sample. I myself might pick up a few more in the series to see if the enjoyability picks up; < $3 per seems like an okay price to pay for Supporting A Canadian Author Who Writes Books Set In Canada (even if they seem absurdly Americanized in places) and Encouraging Low-Cost DRM-Free Books.
* This, sadly, is the stereotype with the most truth in it out of the lot. Minus the inevitable crime bit.
† Ahahaha, no. I have standards.