Wednesday, May 16, 2012

34. The Crime on Cote des Neiges by David Montrose

  This is the second in the Ricochet line of books put out by Vehicule Press reprinting some classic old crime paperbacks from Montreal from the 1950s.  This edition has a forward by Brian Busby, Canadian publishing history expert (and sometime commenter here).  I can't say again how much I appreciate the work of Vehicule press in putting together this collection.  These books are cool in and of themselves, but they also represent a thin slice of Canadian culture that would have otherwise disappeared.

This second book is just as convoluted a mystery as the first (I say "second", but I'm not actually sure of the order; it's the second one I've read), however it starts out in a much more straitforward manner.  This time, instead of an omniscient opening, everything is seen through the eyes of private detective Russel Teed.  It's pretty classic private eye stuff.  He is invited up to the house of a wealthy woman and given the case of finding out if her daughter's now disappeared husband had a secret first wife.  This leads him to one then two than many more murders and a complex case involving the heroin racket, past sins and gang subterfuge.  I felt very similar about this book as I did Murder over Dorval.  It was enjoyable, but a bit too convoluted.  After about the third twist, I did appreciate the cleverness that Montrose must have summoned to make it all work but I didn't really care all that much.  Sometimes the writing was really great and other times forced. It is a time capsule of Montreal when it was a great, roaring city, but it really only feels like a time capsule of Westmount. It's amazing how much of this city was able to be ignored by the english-speaking minority at the time.  Even the rare uses of actual french are highly questionable (though he does write a great french-canadian accent).  It made me think of a book from a few years later, The Stringer, which is in many ways quite similar (the underbelly of Montreal, everyone is drinking all the time), but took into account all of Montreal, even if it was seen from the eyes of an anglo.  I guess this is just another example of the two solitudes.

One minor nitpick about this reprint is that the colours on the cover are off.  As you can see compared to the original, the black is so dark that the chair has almost disappeared (this isn't just an artifact of the web, it looks like that in real life) and the softness of the blue and yellow in the original become a harsh yellow in the reprint and it looks a bit cartoonish.  But a minor nitpick for what is a very commendable effort that you should all invest in.


Brian Busby said...

My thanks for the nice piece and the comments concerning the endeavour. It's very much a labour of love. I think you'll be pleased to learn that the third and final Teed mystery, The Body on Mount Royal, will be out any day now.

One small correction, if I may: The Crime on Cote des Neiges was the first Ricochet Book (but only just). It's also the first Teed adventure. In fact, if you go through Murder Over Dorval with a very fine-toothed comb, you'll collect a few flecks in which the previous case is mentioned.

An aside, if you're interested, I wrote a review Murder Over Dorval just a couple of weeks ago. You'll find it here.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Ah good to know about the chronology of Teed himself. He's an interesting character. You can kind of feel a real person banging around inside the confines of genre conventions and the author's desire to get published and make some money.

I'll go check out your review.