Murder with Muskets


207 pages
ISBN 0-385-23036-2






Reviewed by Darlene Money

Darlene Money was a writer in Mississauga, Ontario.


John Reeves, a CBC radio producer of many talents, has written the third in a series of mystery novels in which Inspector Andrew Coggin and Sergeant Fred Sump of the Toronto police solve puzzling murder cases.

In the last act of a performance of Tosca in Toronto, shots ring out from the muskets of the firing squad and Cavaradossi, played by Bruno Montefiore, crumples to the ground, convincing in his role of a political prisoner executed by the state police. Too convincing. In fact, Montefiore is dead; the execution scene has been used as a cover by a clever and ruthless murderer. Professional jealousy, sexual intrigue, PLO-Israeli hostility and hatred spawned in Nazi World Wan II death camps are some of the motives unearthed by Coggin and Sump before the murderer is unmasked during an exciting reconstruction of the crime.

Reeve’s mysteries are not of the action-packed, suspenseful variety; the actual murder, though described in meticulous detail, is less important in the novels than the ingenious puzzle the murderer has constructed and the steps the detectives take to solve the puzzle.

Almost as entertaining as the detectives’ unravelling of clues is Reeves’s delightfully crisp yet cultivated prose style, and the frequency, in both the omniscient narration and the opinions of Coggin and Sump, of wry humour, dry wit, biting satire, and sometimes an outrageously amusing waspishness: “[The Arab who plays Scarpia in Tosca] shrugged, with a kind of petulant cynicism, clearly unaware of the especial repugnance Canadians would have for such a gesture after years of exposure to its use by the phony intellectual in Ottawa who liked to masquerade as a world statesman” (p.120).

The publisher promises two more Coggin and Sump mysteries. Their fans may want even more than that.


Reeves, John, “Murder with Muskets,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 29, 2024,