A millionaire nonagenarian turns up dead just after his Canadian estate hits the market. In this debut mystery, wealthy, aging historian Edward Mitchell lists his Niagara-on-the-Lake estate in Ontario with a local realtor. That night, Mitchell pours a glass of wine, but something goes wrong “between his palate and the pinot.” The “unwavering aroma of death” hits the back of his throat. Just before dying, Mitchell thinks, “those who live long enough get their just reward.”
Chief Homicide Detective Bryan Dee begins the murder investigation just as his best friend, Kris Gage, flies into town to help his aged parents move from their large country home. Gage is an urban planner, and he suggests to Dee that Mitchell’s death is connected to land acquisition: “I think he was killed for his property.” The Belucci Group, a major property development firm, is not above suspicion, as the top executives have “their fingers in a lot of well-paying pies.” Of concern is the whereabouts of widower Mitchell’s latest will, presumably written after his only offspring, John, died in an accident five years ago. Mitchell now has no heirs—or does he? Although aged, he had remained an imposing presence who “got looks from women half his age” and whose medicine cabinet was chock full of Viagra. Gage believes Mitchell “was trying, right to the bitter end, to get someone pregnant” so he would have an heir. Looking around Mitchell’s mansion for clues, Dee is shocked to find the entry “Time to take care of K. Gage” in the deceased’s diary. No match for author Louise Penny’s famed Quebecer, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, Dee is nonetheless appealing as a middle-aged, golf-loving cop who rose through the ranks due to circumstances rather than talent. Gage, whose first-person account smoothly alternates with third-person narration, is, like Lang, an environmentally conscious urban planner. Considerable Canadian history is woven through the enjoyable book, as are rich descriptions of the country. The pacing is superb and surprises are frequent, but some readers may object to the abundance of four-letter words (Chapter 18 is called “No Fucking Trees!”).
An entertaining, many-layered mystery with an engaging hero.
March 22, 2021