Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Death of a Lesser Man by Thomas Rendell Curran

Publishing Information:
Title – Death of a Lesser Man (An Inspector Stride Mystery)
Author – Thomas Rendell Curran
Publisher – Boulder Publications
Date Published - 2011
# of pages -304

Genres & Themes: Fiction, Mystery, Period piece (1940s), World War II aftermath, Canadian, government agencies

GoodReads – 4 Ratings, 4.0 Average Rating – 2 Reviews, 5.0 Average Rating

My Rating: 2.5/5

Plot Summary:
Gunshots shatter the stillness of a rainy night in an upscale neighbourhood in St. John's, Newfoundland. Harrison Rose, a businessman and war veteran, lies dead. To find the killer, Inspector Eric Stride confronts the darker side of post-World War II St. John's: a lady of the evening who appears on his doorstep, a hard-scrabble labourer who shovels coal for a living, a prosperous businessman with a secret.

Along the way, Stride confronts treachery and betrayal. He also encounters opposition from inside government, when officials attempt to stymie his investigation. As Stride unravels the mystery, he also confronts his own sense of justice in a world where violence has become a way of life.


*multiple perspectives

What I thought:

This is my first Canadian small press book. At least, one that I know is from Canada and is also set in a Canadian city. It's a period piece, taking place in the 1940s and focuses on memories and events from citizens of St. John's, Newfoundland who were involved in World War II. The book is part of a mystery series involving Inspector Eric Stride.

I ended up having a very hard time reading through this one and have been trying to come up with reasons why this should be since I can't find any one really pressing to fault the story or the writing with. Instead, I think it may have been a bunch of little things that just didn't work for me as a reader. The one thing I can say first is that it was very difficult for me to connect with the characters in the first 2/3 of the story. Having not read any other Inspector Stride Mystery's before may have been a factor here. There was just not enough in the story for me to grab on to and learn who Eric Stride is, nor his police team mates for that matter. Instead, much of the first 2/3 of the story focuses on Harrison Rose and the mystery behind who he was as a person. As such, we get little bits and pieces of story from some of the men who went to war with him. I got to know some of these men a little bit better, and of course I got to know Harrison Rose the best. These are the people and story-lines that stuck with me the most while reading.

The focus on Harrison Rose's back story wasn't so much of an issue to me though as the fact that the characters and the narrator periodically switch from using people's last names to identify then to suddenly using first names. Since the story involves multiple perspectives this made it very difficult for me to follow along with who was who and what they were up to.

Lastly, I'd say the lack of women throughout the book was a factor as well. This was very much a man's world considering the nature of the story, the fact that it focused on 1940s police officers interviewing men involved in the World Wars. A little more interaction with some women could have made me connect to the characters a little better as a female reader though. In fact, it's when Stride does talk to his girl friend, Harrison Rose's mistress, and when his daughter showed up that my attention was peaked.

Despite the fact that I had a difficult time reading through most of the book, the story itself did interest me as well as the actual mystery. This is why I think that once most of the mystery behind who Harrison Rose's personal history settled a little the book really picked up for me. I liked hearing about the discrepancy in how many shots were fired vs. how many bullet wounds there were and seeing how the police officers brain stormed the reasons behind this. I also loved reading about the post-death break in to Harrison Roses house and the suspicions Eric Stride had about some of the characters the readers were already introduced to.

On top of the mystery and story was the fact that I learned so much about Canadian soldiers that I didn't know before. I had previously never learned about the soldiers of Newfoundland. And many of the stories the men shared with the inspector centered around a battle called "Battle of Ville Ste-Lucille" and is based off of the actual battle Monchy-Le-Preux which took place in April 1917. It is a remarkable tale and worth reading about even if you don't find yourself picking up this book.

In conclusion, I could tell this was a very well researched book and it was very well written in the sense that the stories seemed true to life and the complexity of the situation showed through brilliantly. There wasn't any reason why the things that seemed to have made this book difficult for me to read to have done so and I can tell from the enthusiam of previous reviewers for the book that it certainly didn't for others. I certainly hope that in the future I will be able to pick up the first two Inspector Stride Mystery books and find that I enjoy them much more.

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this book from the publicist in exchange for my honest opinion.

Recommended to: Canadians, World War II buffs

Where you can purchase this book:
Available in trade paperback format.

Add this book to your tbr list:
Visit the Death of a Lesser Man Goodreads page.

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