The West End Murders
CJSF volunteer, Frieda Werden reviews Roy Innes' West End Murders...
Roy Innes is a brave writer. The West End Murders is only his second published crime novel, and already he's endeavored a police procedural that engages at least 8 different agencies. He includes the RCMP, the Vancouver police, the San Francisco police, the FBI, the CIA, and the personal security forces of at least 2 major public officials, not to mention an Attorney General and a forensic pathologist. Plus a couple of journalists thrown in for good measure. Somehow he manages to squeeze them all in to a mere 363 pages.
Although it's only his second novel (the first was Murder in the Monashees, 2005), Innes is not a young man without experience. He was an eye surgeon and studied creative writing upon his retirement. He lives on Gabriola Island, a small island off Vancouver Island, which is a nice, quiet place to spend time writing.
This book is very Canadian. The villains (revealed on the first page, so this is not a spoiler) are of course extreme Americans who are not only anti-gay but also religious, militaristic, and patriotic to the max. Innes takes the opportunity to build a case that there are all kinds of nice, successful gay people who move in the best circles and who get along fine with the straights. There is no superhero figure among the cops, just a bunch of moderately flawed guys doing the best they can to negotiate getting their work done without head-on conflicts in a complex environment.
With so many characters involved on the police side, character development is not this book's strongest suit, but there are some nice touches. The female journalist is a redhead, of course, but at least she is short instead of statuesque. With most of the characterization very brief, it stands out that the RCMP guy with extreme wine expertise gets an awful lot of detail given to his obsession. Mystery readers with a suspicious nature (and isn't that all of us?) might wonder if Innes got paid to name certain BC wines, and if this was tax-deductible research.
An engaging read. A-minus.