By Rosalie MacEachern
For The News
Halifax writer Linda Moore’s Foul Deeds, the story of a professional criminologist named Rosalind who links up with a private eye to investigate a suspicious death, has been republished by Vagrant Press.
Foul Deeds ($15.95, Vagrant) covers the Halifax crime scene, giving the reader the added pleasure of recognizing names and places and an occasional sense of having been right on the scene.
Moore’s Rosalind has her attention divided between the death of the environmental lawyer and her volunteer work as a resource person for an independent company of actors staging a production of Hamlet. This, of course, reflects Moore’s own long involvement with Neptune Theatre Company but if you are not a Shakespeare fan it could be burdensome.
What slowly emerges in Halifax’s winter damp is a growing sense that there are people who will stop at nothing to keep their “foul deeds” from being brought to light. Unnerving parallels between life and art begin to emerge. The difficulty is in establishing just who is at the bottom of the violence that keeps erupting. Family and business associates head the list of suspects while poison comes into play.
If you are OK with a sleuth who takes what some might consider incomplete or unexplained leaps of logic to solve a crime you will like this book. If, however, you like your puzzles painstakingly pieced together one revelatory detail at a time – and cannot stand a loose connection – you may feel a little let down.
Crang Plays the Ace ($16.95, Thomas Allen) by Jack Batten is another in a series of mysteries featuring a wise-cracking, cocky lawyer named Crang. He’s a pretty cool character and would be the first to tell you so. He thrives on mixing business and pleasure and is quite willing to turn to one of his own clients when he needs an arm twisted – actually he might try that himself – or a lock picked.
His clients are usually guilty as charged and that is just the way he likes it. When a wealthy financier and the head of a society family turns up at his door he is puzzled. It seems the fellow invested $300,000 in a relative’s business and the investment has become too profitable. Crang takes some convincing but his unorthodox investigation – complete troublesome surveillance, punches traded and people trying to out-tough each other – reveals a dirty operator in the disposal business.
Crang’s skulking around in the garbage business is somewhat leavened by his relationship with Annie, the movie reviewer – though what she is doing with him might well be another mystery.
“Batten’s book does more damage to the reputation of criminal lawyers than any book I’ve ever read. Unfortunately, it’s a great read,” commented famed criminal lawyer Eddie Greenspan.
Straight No Chaser is another Crang mystery about jazz, cocaine and Vietnamese triads which certainly sounds as if it could be entertaining and it is, kind of. Crang’s a man about town and he has a moral code of sorts but it is not what you might expect from a member of the bar. Incidentally, you’ll find almost as much vodka in a Crang mystery as you do scotch in a Linden MacIntyre’s Why Men Lie. Enough to make you wonder about the possibility of liquor commission sponsorship.
Like Foul Deeds, it is a mystery with some redeeming features. It all depends on how much tension or intelligence you require in a mystery.