Although better known for its tea rooms, English architecture, and a seemingly inexhaustible 12 month blooming cycle, Victoria has rarely been thought of as a petrie dish of murder and intrigue – and yet, award winning journalist Jean Paetkau hits us squarely in the face with a bracing and salty tale of betrayal, dogged journalistic determination, and a hundred year old family scandal!
In her debut foray into crime fiction, Jean has successfully made the leap from children’s books into a very crowded genre often crying for originality. And while I often have the skepticism of a character from a Mickey Spillane novel, I found myself hooked within the first few passages of chapter one.
In Blood on the Breakwater, our heroine, Helene Unger, an often exhausted and bedraggled solo parent, finds solace and comfort from sunset walks on our historic waterfront. And while Victoria and its horizons seem to have sprung from a Toni Onley painting, something more sinister awaits waterside. Her life with “Vancouver Island Radio…” has been one of routine and ritual soon to be shaken up with the appearance of a lifeless woman, Lucy Marino, floating off shore.
To my delight, Jean leaves few Victoria anchors uninvolved and outside the realm of suspicion; the arts, the business of city blooms, bakeries and coffee shops! For residents of our fair garden city, Blood on the Breakwater appears to touch on every hot button issue facing our privileged gilded boulevards – whether it’s bike lanes or ferry traffic or street parking!
While our Helene might be a couple of Fluevog foot steps behind any number of suspicious characters, closely on her heel is Detective Kalinowski who has the shop worn cynicism of a gumshoe twice her age, the twitchiness and suspicion of too many encounters with the dark side of humanity.
Honestly, *Blood on the Breakwater* is as much a surprising thriller as it is a banter masterclass in the witty/pithy exchanges between detective and civilian investigator (Helene).
Suspects dodge and weave with the unpredictability of sedans in the Douglas-Hillside-Government intersection. I found myself held in place, by the scruff of the neck, as the denouement approached like a runaway steam train over the Malahat. It was exhausting and ultimately satisfying. Begging for more, I only began to imagine the potential sequel and pathways our heroine would uncover in future volumes and adventures.
*Blood on the Breakwater* is a breezy and tantalizing read – and a must have for Island residents. The book is available at all of your favourite shops – from Munro’s to Bolen Books to Russell Books and, oh yes, very online at Amazon
Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and writer of words online since 1995. Always on the hunt for a choice piece of fiction, his hand is either holding a coffee cup or a paperback!