Real Mystery Is Finding the Mystery
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
By John McFetridge
Harcourt, 2008, $25
By John McFetridge
Harvest Paperback, 2008, $14
This volume is billed as a mystery, but the real mystery is finding the mystery, unless you're trying to figure out who among the dirty cops will be smoked out and when. Or unless you're trying to figure out which mob will end up on top.
Set in Toronto, "Everybody Knows" is a gritty behind-the-scenes look at police work and the criminals who keep them busy.
Detective Gord Bergeron has returned to work after the death of his wife and is uneasily eyeing his new partner, a Native American named Armstrong. First, they're called to the scene of a jumper who plunged to his death from atop a high-rise apartment building. Inside, the detectives can't find anyone who knows the man, or who will admit knowing him. Was it suicide, or did someone give the man a nudge?
In one apartment an attractive woman is charming but unhelpful in her interview. She wears an electronic device on her leg while on probation. This limits her outside access but not her indoor activities, ranging from bedroom entertainment to a lucrative marijuana crop in a back room.
The book bounces back and forth between the Toronto police and their investigations and the criminals plotting new angles on old operations. The crooks, it seems, are more concerned about wresting control from the competition than about law enforcement.
Scenes from the seamy side of an otherwise beautiful Toronto are interesting but not overwhelmingly meaningful. The narrative, while simple, is choppy, lacks clear plotting continuity and possesses no significant insight into human behavior.
As for the characters, Bergeron and Armstrong appear to be solid enough chaps, but the author gives his reader little reason to care what happens to anyone in the novel. The title, incidentally, is taken from a song.
McFetridge's first novel, "Dirty Sweet," was recently released in paperback. Some of the characters introduced here are found in "Everybody Knows" but not Bergeron and Armstrong.
Instead, this earlier picture of crime in Toronto and the workings of the Toronto police force is painted with about the same strokes and same shading. This time the emphasis is on attempts by novices and professionals to make it rich overnight with new angles on money laundering and Internet porn. Thrown in for good measure is a neat automobile exchange deal whereby cars and funds are transferred to Europe, specifically to Russia.
The book opens with police interviewing Roxanne Keyes, a commercial real estate agent, who has just witnessed the fatal shooting of a man seated in a car in front of a Starbucks. Roxanne says she doesn't know another man seated in the car behind the murder vehicle. We learn shortly afterward that she does indeed recognize the other victim but has plans to use that tidbit of vital information to her own advantage.
Again, the plot is murky, the characters edgy and manipulative. And again, I was little moved by the characters and cared little what happened to them in the end.
The author should know Toronto well. He lives there.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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