Book Review by Stuart Nulman
The Dead of Winter
by Peter Kirby
- especiallyduring the months of December and January - can be a cold, cruel and unforgiving time of the year in Montreal. For Montreal's homeless population - especially during what should be a happy, festive time,the Christmas
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holiday season - Montreal can be even more cold, cruel and unforgiving. And when the bodies of five homeless people turn up dead in different downtown locations (one in Cabot Square, the rest in a couple of Metro stations) on Christmas Eve, it's up to Montreal police inspector Luc Vanier to find out if it was a case of five isolated tragic deaths or simultaneous murder. That's the premise of "The Dead of Winter", the engrossing debut murder mystery by Montreal lawyerturned-mystery writer Peter Kirby.
Wintertime Vanier, an embittered, hard drinking Montreal police detective, willingly sacrifices his Christmas holidays to investigate the five deaths that befell Montreal's most vulnerable citizens. Through his grit, determination and use of old fashioned detective work, Vanier (along with fellow detective Laurent Janvier by his side) get down to the bottom of this murder investigation in the midst of a bitterly cold, snow packed Montreal winter. He finds out - thanks to a security camera tape at the McGill metro station - that one of the victims was approached by a mysterious stranger dressed in a Santa Claus suit before their murder; then he discovers that the five victims were poisoned with potassium cyanide; then he finds out that the Holy Land Shelter, where the victims spent some time before their deaths, has become a front for a money laundering scheme and its security officer (a former violent offender) was defrauding many of their homeless clients of
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their social assistance cheques. Throughout this deadly holiday season, Vanier is feverishly on the trail to stop this serial killer before more homeless people become murder victims as well as victims of society. Kirby received a special honor two years ago by the CrimeWriters of Canada, when an earlier draft of the manuscript for "The Dead of Winter" was shortlisted for the Unhanged Arthur Award. After reading the finished product, I can readily see why it got this recognition. Kirby has managed to make this book a classic police procedural mystery thriller that keeps the reader hooked with every red herring, investigative clue and new development in the case. LucVanier is a contemporary version of the veteran police detective who likes to go by the book (and sometimes veer away from it) in order to solve the case, yet carries his fair share of personal and professional demons that sometimes motivates or hinders his modus operandi as a crime solver. Best of all, the book treats the city of Mon- treal (especially its downtown core) practically as an essential character to the plot, especially during winter, when it's at its most coldest and unforgiving. It also gives a sobering look at Montreal's forgotten citizenry, the homeless population, the life they lead on its streets and the many circumstances to why they ended up homeless and forgotten. As well, it takes a look at the people who undertake the thankless task of aiding the homeless, and the abuses some people do at its many homeless shelters for their own greedy bene- fit, rather than for the benefit of the people it's supposed to lend a benevolent hand to. "The Dead of Winter" is an impressive book by one of the promising new voices in the murder mystery genre. It's a ferociously crafted piece of crime fiction of how the dark, mean streets of downtown Montreal make victims out of its most helpless citizens.
Stuart Nulman's "Book Banter" segment is a twice-a-month feature on "The Stuph File Program" with Peter Anthony Holder,which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week. You can either listen or download it at w w w. p eteranthonyholder.com, Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes. Plus you can find it at www.CyberStat i o n U S A . c o m , www.KDXradio.com,True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand, Media Corp in Singapore and WSTJ, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Stuart can be reached at: bookbanter @hotmail.com . Comment on this article at: www.westendtimes.ca
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