A couple years ago I reviewed Michael McCann’s crime novel, The Rainy Day Killer. When reading crime fiction, I gravitate toward cosy mysteries so it was not what I was used to. It is much darker. So, when I began reading his most recent novel, Sorrow Lake, I steeled myself, expecting it to be similar. But, it isn’t. I found myself immersed in an interesting police procedural that doesn’t contain too much gore.
Here’s the publisher’s summary of the book: “Detective Inspector Ellie March of the Ontario Provincial Police is called in to investigate when a man from the village of Sparrow Lake is found shot to death, execution style, in a farmer’s field in rural eastern Ontario.
Leading an inexperienced team of detectives, she probes beneath the wintry surface of the township to discover the victim had a dark secret–one that may endanger others in the community as well.
For young and enthusiastic Detective Constable Kevin Walker, the chance to work with Ellie March is an honour, until the situation turns ugly and unexpected betrayal threatens to destroy his promising career.”
Sorrow Lake is the first book in McCann’s new March and Walker detective series and, as I’ve mentioned, it has a different tone from his Donaghue and Stainer crime series. I have to admit that it fits better with my comfort zone – a gripping plot that never loses its tension and picks up pace as it neared the climax but not too much graphic violence. There’s nothing in it that would make me squirm and screw my eyes shut but it still has nail biting moments.
Not surprisingly for a crime novel, the story centres on the hunt for a killer and the law enforcement officers involved in the case, particularly Detective Inspector Ellie Walker, an experienced detective, and Detective Constable Kevin Walker, who is new to homicide investigations. I thought there was a bit too much explanation of some of the investigation procedures and techniques as the story opened but, once those details had been explained, the story moved along at a good pace and I got involved in trying to put together the clues to find the killer. I also enjoyed the subplot revolving around the jealousies and power struggles within the police department, particularly when one officer was jockeying to be chosen to lead the investigation.
As I’ve said, the story is about the hunt for a killer and the people involved in it. I found the interaction and sometimes tension between the characters as interesting and absorbing as the actual case. I liked the main characters, Ellie March and Kevin Walker, and I think this was partly because the author gives readers glimpses of their private lives in between the scenes involving the investigation. This adds depth to the story as readers develop a better understanding of characters’ actions and decisions. In tightly written scenes, the author also produces well drawn secondary characters. Especially memorable characters are the underhanded Detective Constable Dart, Ellie March’s musician neighbour, Ballantyne Ridge, and the elderly, nosy woman who lives opposite the victim’s widow.
The story is set in a small town and the surrounding countryside in Northern Ontario, Canada during winter. The landscape and the weather are both important to the story and the author vividly paints a scene that the reader can step into. He also has a good grasp of the internal structure of the regional police force and the details he includes about it add authenticity to the story. It isn’t a location that is frequently used as the setting for novels and it is more intriguing as a result.
I found Sorrow Lake an entertaining and engrossing read. I liked the characters and was grabbed by the plot. I will happily read other books in this series as I think the characters are worth re-visiting. So I have no hesitation wholeheartedly recommending this book.