Al Stray is manager of the Port Credit Public Library.
Move over, Benny Cooperman! Move over, Inspector Charlie Slater! Make room for Moss Elliot, aka Precious. Forty years old, thrice married (and divorced), the former air force pilot and editor is in need of a job. A tip and $200 from a loan shark take him to “a small branch-plant city of 45,000 on the shoreline of Lake Ontario between Toronto and Kingston.” Women’s page editor for the Ockenden Star-Leader is better than jail in Salonika, Greece, his last address.
Small town life suits Precious, whose roots are in Eastern Ontario. He takes his meals at the Ritz, drinks his beer at the American, and dates a girl from Food City. Avoiding his editor and watching the lake freeze over provide him with enough excitement until the town gossip is stabbed to death in mid-February. Being the only experienced, sober newsman on staff, Moss reluctantly agrees to help a young colleague unravel the story.
Blackmail, corrupt officials, the mob, and a name from out of the past combine to lead Precious along a trail that twists and turns from Ockenden to Toronto and back to the Star-Leader itself. Complicating matters are his feelings for the murdered woman’s step-daughter and a missing emerald.
More than a murder story, more than a love story, Precious offers the reader a slice of life. Some aspects of the plot stretch the imagination, but nonetheless the book is an entertaining diversion. The principal characters grow on you as the plot unfolds, and deft description of places, people, and events brings them to life. The pace is sustained with enough action and suspense to keep the reader involved until the killer is unmasked on the last page. Not all of the sub-plots are satisfactorily resolved, leaving one to hope there will be another town and another story to interest Precious.