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by John McFetridge
Minotaur Books, February 2010
295 pages
ISBN: 031259948X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In a follow-up to EVERYONE KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE, Canadian author John McFetridge introduces multiple characters: Get, a black veteran of Afghanistan who is bringing a shipment of guns from Detroit to a friend in a Toronto biker gang, McKeon and Price, two detectives who meet covertly with a police officer who tells them that a man she arrested has died in custody under suspicious circumstances, and Boner, a thug who carries out a hit, then realizes he shot the wrong man when he sees a woman is in the same car. He kills her too, feeling stupid, but thinking it's going to be a funny story by the time he gets to the clubhouse. And that's just in the first fifteen pages.

McFetridge develops a teeming, complicated world where members of biker gangs are competing for power, the police are unsure who among their ranks they can trust, and the borders separating the police and criminals are just as easily crossed as the checkpoint between Detroit and Windsor. McKeon and Price try to figure out who would kill a suburban couple who were acting out a sexual fantasy in their car while on a date. Richard Tremblay, who organized a takeover of Montreal and Toronto organized crime, is at the top of his game but aware that everything he's built is on shaky ground. Get meets a young Asian bank robber who thinks they might be able to pull off a scam that could set them up for life. And both the police and the bikers are trying to keep their balance amid the aftershocks of gang warfare and a corruption investigation.

Comparisons with Elmore Leonard are inevitable as McFetridge's spare style leaves the storytelling to the characters, whose dialogue is sharp and authentic. It has hints of Leonard's sense of humor, too. In one scene, two gang members dressed in business casual are in a trendy restaurant having a meeting. Before they leave the restaurant they notice a man is wearing a T-shirt with the Saints of Hell logo on it. He's obviously not a member of their gang and has no right to wear their colors. When he's slow to take it off, unsure why these guys who look like Gap managers, are so angry. They choke him with the shirt and beat him senseless As they stalk off, one says to the stunned crowd, "It's copyrighted material."

But LET IT RIDE is not an easy-going page-turner. There's no singular protagonist to identify with, and it's hard to keep track of all the characters and the various scams and entanglements they're involved in. Criminal enterprises and business deals are indistinguishable, reality and fantasy blur. The accidentally murdered couple were acting the roles of john and prostitute; Richard Tremblay's girlfriend is a film producer, setting up make-believe scenes of crime as the criminal mastermind imagines himself in a leading role. It's an ambitious critical snapshot of society of the type Balzac might write if he lived in 21st century Canada and had grown up reading crime fiction.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, March 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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