This month’s book is a drama/mystery/thriller entitled Nightshade, by Canadian author Tom Henighan. I was a little disappointed in this book, but found it a worthwhile learning experience nonetheless. Read on to see my thoughts on why.
My reasons for choosing this particular book was simple; I was pressed for time. Both my personal and professional life have been keeping me busy, not to mention my schedule for book reviews required I read three books in one month in order to meet my deadline. Out of the books I had on hand, Nightshade met several requirements I was looking for; it was not Sci-fi/horror/fantasy, its title/cover/theme could be associated to spring, and it was short (less than three hundred pages).
The story is about private detective Sam Montcalm, and his investigation into the murder of a renowned scientist. The primary suspect is an artist and environmental activist, who also happens to be Sam’s friend. We follow Sam as he works to find the true killer, and prove his friend's innocence. In true noir detective style, we see Sam do everything from rough up sources for information to flirt with potential suspects.
Back of the book:
Deadly nightshade – the poison plant par excellence – and in historic Quebec City at an important scientific conference concerning the genetic manipulation of trees it means murder!
Police, RCMP, and a mysterious FBI agent from Washington converge on the scene. But the sharpest eye belongs to Sam Montcalm, a despised "bedroom snooper" from Ottawa whose primary concern is to clear a First Nations activist of the crime. Sam is middle-aged, tough, and sophisticated, yet he’s also a lone wolf who feels displaced nearly everywhere, and his relations with his colleagues, the police – and with women – are always complicated. "You’re a psychic wound without a health card," a friend comments
The story moves to its surprising climax as Montcalm follows the trail of murder back to Canada’s capital and into the Gatineau Hills, his deep sense of cynicism about human nature confirmed as he closes in on the killer and struggles to come to terms with himself.
***(POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT BEYOND THIS POINT)***
What I learned from this book:
- Commitment/Pay Off ratio: One of the lessons I took to heart in the last few years is when you have an audience stick through 200+ pages of a story, there better be a payoff at the end. On a few occasions I have felt cheated at the end of a book; having invested time and interest on a story only to feel disappointed at the end. In this case, the protagonist, a Private Investigator, sees a friend die, another friend blames them for the death and he loses his job. On top of that, the crime is solved by tertiary character, and the antagonists escapes custody.
- Drama-Mystery: After completing this book, it came across more as a Drama than a Mystery. The story seemed to focus more on passion, disappointment and treachery rather than investigation. There was very little action, which made the entire story feel more like an exploration of the suspects motives rather than actual researching for clues.
- Location research: Imagine my surprise when I found out this story takes place in my backyard! The setting happens between Quebec city, Ottawa, and my hometown of Gatineau. It was great to see the author lived near my area, detailing locations I was very familiar with. However, I discovered that research will only take you so far. The physical descriptions of the area were fairly accurate, but the author’s rendering of the local population and social setting seemed off.
Tom Henighan was born in Manhattan, and grew up in Westchester County. He came to Canada in 1965, where he got married to his second wife in 1970. He also had his second son in 1979. He lives in Ottawa, and teaches at Carleton University. Tom’s works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry include The Maclean's Companion to Canadian Arts and Culture, The Well of Time, and the YA novel Viking Quest (2001).
For those interested in reading more books from Tom Henighan, please check out his website at https://tomhenighanjournal.wordpress.com/about/
In closing, I would like to thank you all for dropping by and following my blog. Your patronage and encouragement is truly appreciated.
Until next time!