We don’t receive many mysteries, but here are two — both by Newfoundlanders far from home.
One, The Body on the T, is by Mike Martin who now lives in Ottawa; it's from Baico Publishing (www.baico.ca, no price given, but a most attractive format).
The other, entitled Analyzing Sylvia Plath by Alice Walsh (Thomas & Mercer, no price given, www.apub.com/books, they are the mystery division of Amazon books), seems to reflect small-town Nova Scotia where she now lives.
The Body on the T is set in the small town of Grand Bank on Newfoundland's southeast shore. The T refers to the shape of the formation of the jutting neck of land on which a body has just been found.
An unknown man has $20,000 sewn into his jacket and was hit hard enough to break the back of his skull before he went into the water. The plot thickens and becomes more complicated from there. However, after a large drug bust, all ends well.
Nevertheless, there is more than the plot that make this book a good read. The characters are lifelike, especially Sgt. Windflower, a northern Cree and a Mountie by profession who practises the religion of his ancestors. Other memorable characters are Sheila, his girlfriend who runs a restaurant called the Mug Up, Cpl. Tizzard, and two East Indian doctors.
Other aspects of the book include descriptions of delicious meals, vivid scenery and short accounts of episodes in Newfoundland history. Although the book needs proofreading and the writing is no more than decent, it's to be recommended.
As the second in a proposed series, we very much look forward to the third.
Analyzing Sylvia Plath is subtitled An Academic Mystery, it takes place at a small college in Nova Scotia, where a literary conference is being held. Isobel, a young English professor, and her long-estranged aunt, Beth Wilcox, are the main characters. Beth has been invited to speak about her recent book, Analyzing Sylvia Plath, which has generated much controversy in the academic world.
The first murder takes place at a reception to welcome Beth. The second, a girl student from a well-to-do local family, is even more baffling. Isobel herself has to go to New York to give a paper at yet another conference, and the denouement takes place unexpectedly there.
There is something not quite right about this story. The whole atmosphere is soaked in gloom. The November weather and the nearness of Halloween are part of it, but not all. Some of it — with a rumour of incest — is due to the discussions about the life of Sylvia Plath, the poet who’s the subject of Beth's presentation.
The characters, though well-presented, do not, for the most part, engage our sympathies. To sum up, this is a readable novel, but perhaps not one to read twice.
Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at 111 Sydney St., Apt. 17, Saint John, N.B., E2L 2L8, or call her at 506-693-5498.