Gerald J. Stortz is an assistant professor of history at St. Jerome’s
College, University of Waterloo.
Eric Wright is a Toronto teacher who has published one previous novel, The Night the Gods Smiled. He has also written for television and magazines. If he teaches as well as he writes, his students are indeed fortunate.
Smoke Detector is a beautifully crafted novel. As the title indicates, it centres upon an arson case being investigated by Inspector Charlie Salter. Salter is a likeable individual, obviously skilled in police work but politically naive and therefore excluded from deserved advancement. He is also portrayed as a husband and father who has to deal with such mundane but infuriating tasks as locating a tiny plastic wheel even while he is in the middle of this important investigation. The plot, which develops around a limited number of characters, leads the reader down a number of promising but frustrating blind alleys. When the ending is revealed, it is surprising, though not bizarre.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can bestow upon the author is that I picked up this work to read for half an hour at midnight Friday; at 4:30 a.m. I was still reading and only quit when my eyes started to droop. Saturday morning all other tasks waited while I finished Smoke Detector. I sincerely hope Eric Wright has another book in the works. I look forward to hearing much more frequently from him and “Charlie” in the future.