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by David Whellams
ECW Press, June 2013
264 pages
9.99 GBP
ISBN: 1770410430

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Retired Chief Inspector Peter Cammon is sent from Scotland Yard to Montreal to accompany home the body of a colleague. Carpenter was in Montreal at the request of the British Consul General to oversee the purchase of some historic letters - between John Wilkes Booth and the British authorities in Canada - but was killed in circumstances unclear. Before departing, Cammon visits the family of the deceased and finds that unknown to his bosses Carpenter was travelling with a girlfriend, who has now disappeared. Initially reluctant to become involved, Cammon becomes drawn into the case.

THE DROWNED MAN, the second Cammon mystery, has several interesting aspects. Whellams is clearly knowledgeable about the workings of law enforcement agencies in the UK, Canada and USA, and this informs the sections of the book dealing with the operation of these agencies, and the relationships between them. Cammon has the services of his daughter-in-law Maddy, who trawls the internet for information as required to sustain Peter's investigations; the pair make use of the latest available communications technology. This, and the recent nature of some of the areas of criminal activity which come under discussion - phone hacking and inducement to throw cricket matches - contribute to the feeling that the story is very much current.

Readers may however have some difficulty in swallowing the tale in its entirety. Firstly there is the age of the protagonist. At 71, it seems surprising that he would be prepared for routine escort duty, never mind a fairly punishing period of all-night stakeouts, repeated jet travel, etc. More significantly for the story, the preparedness of various persons for assault and murder seems out of proportion to the benefits likely to be obtained and the risks involved. The mysterious girlfriend, the most exotic feature of the tale, also makes some very odd decisions given her unquestioned operational effectiveness.

Leaving the above aside, the book has some convincing periods of action, and interest is generally sustained by the factual detail in a variety of areas. Central to the crime is the Québécois striving for greater independence and we hear of the current status of debate. The letters, and the activities of John Wilkes Booth in Civil War era USA, are set in context. We are also treated to fairly detailed appraisals of organised crime activity in Montreal, and what happens to a body set adrift in the Anacostia River. All this makes for an engaging read, and a cut above the normal run of crime fiction.

§ Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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