The Dead List (A John Drake Mystery) by Martin Crosbie

When I was teaching I mentored a student teacher of First Nations heritage. One day he sat down on a chair and gathered the students around him on the floor to listen. And then he proceeded to blow the lesson. He was doing everything wrong, and I wondered what I was going to tell him when the kids started twitching after about three minutes.

Twenty minutes later the lesson was done and not one child had moved. I started to wonder what I could learn from this guy; I still don’t know how he did it. Reading Martin Crosbie is like that. Storytelling is an art, and sometimes it’s difficult to figure out why it’s so good.

For example, in The Dead List there is almost no action for the first third of the story. A body is found, a rookie RCMP officer goes out on a limb and says it’s murder. And then they can’t find any evidence. Nothing happens for a long time.

And the reader doesn’t care. We are so engrossed in the interplay of the characters, so interested in finding out what awful background John Drake is trying to escape from, that we just want to keep reading.

Disclaimer: I am from a small town in British Columbia. I have driven through Hope – the setting for this story – numerous times on my way to and from the Interior, and I thought it a pleasant little place. I have eaten a wonderful breakfast at the Home Restaurant, just like Drake does. And I had no idea that any place like Cobalt Street existed (and it’s probably fictional), although every town has an area like that. The evocative descriptions of the decrepit houses and the quirky characters that strike so close to home kept me entertained as the investigation stalled. Learning about Drake – a wonderful, complex character – right down to his favourite pizza, (sorry, no spoilers) engaged me more than car chases and fistfights.

And then, once Crosbie has trickled enough information to us about our mystery detective, the clues to the murder start adding up and the action begins; we’re off on the next ride. The plotline is nicely complicated, the personalities interact with increasing vigour and we are rewarded for our patience with a crackerjack of a murder mystery.

The first time through, I read this story in one sitting and enjoyed every minute of it. Highly recommended for mystery fans and those who appreciate a good novel. Five stars out of five.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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