Chris Redmond is Director of Internal Communications at the University
Hardly a mystery story, since the murder takes place in the second sentence, The Suspect is an interesting blend of police procedural and psychological crime novel: Les Miserables in a comic key, set on the sunshine coast of British Columbia and given a lovable RCMP staff sergeant as hero.
It gives away nothing of the plot to say that the killer is George Wilcox, a retired teacher (like his victim). And it will not startle any mystery aficionado to be told that the real question, in the policeman’s mind as in the reader’s, is not so much who smashed Carlyle Burke’s head as why. The policeman eventually gets an answer; the reader remains very slightly in doubt, victim of an untypically fuzzy passage of writing from the generally skillful L.R. Wright. Most of the book has the style one wants in a detective story: limpid and workmanlike. And the conversations ring true, even in the touchingly clumsy love scenes.
Perhaps the book’s chief novelty (for readers other than those who may find the West Coast environment implausibly casual and balmy) is its use of the psychology of old men. Murder mysteries most often involve the young and hot-blooded or the middle-aged and scheming; instead, in The Suspect one finds old people, settling the scores of a lifetime in a way Canada’s Ross Macdonald would doubtless have approved. One also finds Staff Sergeant Karl Alberg, and looks forward to finding him again.