Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Nightshade -- the review

Tom Henighan has a way with words. And he has managed to combine that skill along with the key ingredient of suspense in his new crime novel from Dundurn Press, Nightshade. That can often be a tricky balancing act when it comes to mystery and crime writing.

Starting out in Ouebec City, Sam Montcalm, an Ottawa P.I. and the hero of the story, provides a travelogue of well-known streets and areas, all described with an artist’s touch to take the reader along for the walk.

The plot revolves around the genetic manipulation of trees, the topic at a scientific conference taking place in Quebec City. A delegate, the primary mover and shaker with a U.S. company heavily involved in research, is murdered. Montcalm is asked by a former girlfriend to help prove the innocence of her partner, Daniel, a First Nations artist whose paintings are a protest against nature’s destruction, who is accused of the crime. Then, a second murder occurs.

Of course, there’s a woman, and Montcalm’s track record should warn him to beware but he’s a wounded soul who is easily drawn in. Too bad she’s one of the scientists from California, and therefore a suspect.

As the minutes tick away before the conferences ends, the need to wrap up the case pushes the investigators into a race with the clock. The final scene is played out in the Gatineau Hills, as Montcalm must face the killer, an angry police presence, and his own shortcomings.

Sam Montcalm is a conflicted, middle-aged, tough, self-deprecating soul whose personal demons often get the best of him. But he’s also a guy who knows his classical music and enjoys the masters of fine art. As he struggles to come to terms with his past, he passionately fights for the cause of the First Nations, the environment, and justice.

Tom Henighan has crafted a multi-layered story with a very human, very imperfect protagonist, a wonderful descriptive writing style, and a tale of crime and passion for our times. Nightshade is Henighan’s first venture into the adult sector of this genre. His previous book, Doom Lake Holiday, was a teen mystery set in the Rideau Lakes district and proved to be popular with that age group. He also has two stand-alone mainstream novels, both short-listed for well-known literary awards. He is an Ottawa writer and editor.

Linda Wiken

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