This book gives us some insight into the relationship between the French areas of Canada and the English speaking areas. Toronto police detective Charlie Salter is assigned as liaison to a case of murder that takes place in Montreal, because the victim is from Toronto. It is the kind of case that his department doesn't have the time or inclination to deal with, so it is passed down to him. He is thrilled to get it. He works with Sergeant Henri O'Brien from Montreal, and they develop a nice relationship along the way.
The victim in this book is a professor of English at a small college in Toronto, so Wright has drawn on his own experience and we get an accurate picture of a group of colleagues at the college affected by this professor's death. This group was visiting Montreal for a conference when the death occurred.
In retrospect, I may not have been fair to this book as I read it. Maybe too much going on in my life while reading it. Maybe not so interested in male mid-life angst. And regardless of my initial reactions, I do hope to continue reading the series, should I find further books available.
When I went back and reread the first chapter, I was overwhelmed at the beauty of some of the passages. Charlie is in a loving marriage, and has two teenage boys; his wife is from a rich family on Prince Edward Island. Here he describes the feeling of an interloper married into a rich family.
Annie's family were well-bred, tactful, and keen to include Annie's choice in the clan. They absorbed Salter's family into their world of fishing, sailing, riding and perpetual lobster suppers as if he had paid dues. Most of the time Salter was happy to enjoy their world. Occasionally, impatient and constricted by it, he felt like the lone Christian in-law in a family of Jews, conscious of his uncircumcised state, his slightly albino look, and of the determination of his relatives never to make him feel like an outsider.There is quite a bit about Salter's family life and relationships and mid-life adjustments. For some readers, that might be a distraction. I was fine with that, especially Charlie's introspective musings, I just felt that the whole story moved too slowly.
In Encyclopedia Mysteriosa (1994), William L. DeAndrea describes the Charlie Salter novels as "low-key, but finely crafted and sharply observed police procedurals." He also says:
A policeman with real-life problems and emotions, Toronto Inspector Charlie Salter is reminiscent of Helen Reilly's Inspector McKee in that although his cases are procedural in form, they don't usually take the protagonist down any particularly mean streets. Shrewd observation of the middle classes is Salter's specialty.This book is very much like some Golden Age mysteries, with less violence and a slower pace.
Publisher: Signet, 1985; originally pub. in hardback, 1983
Length: 254 pages
Format: mass market paperback
Series: Charlie Salter
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural