Saturday, June 18, 2011


by John Moss
Dundurn Press

John Moss is quite the storyteller. He seamlessly blends historical details, descriptions of locations, and spy-tingling adventure into a page-turning novel. It's called Reluctant Dead. And although it starts with a murder or is it a suicide, in Toronto, that somehow gets lost in the convergence of lost treasure, spy antics, political factions, romantic notions and exotic locations. And yet, it doesn't get lost. It's still there, under the surface and weaves its way through it all.

In this, the third outing for Toronto police detectives Miranda Quinn and David Morgan, the partners take different paths. Quinn is on a three month sabbatical to Easter Island, in order to write a mystery novel. Morgan is handed the investigation of the death of Maria D'Arcy, wife of well-known lawyer, on a yacht moored at Toronto Island. Or is it truly a suicide, as he's led to believe?

Quinn's idyllic retreat turns into a hazardous setting, where she's drawn into a maze of deadly dealings having to do with a lost culture and political aspirations. While Morgan finds himself in the Arctic, trying to survive a rescue mission gone bad. Their stories converge back in Toronto and play out as both try to unravel the clues in this deadly game. The body count is high and the stakes are even higher. Plus, there are some unusual methods of murder!

There are a lot of layers to this novel, so be sure to pay close attention when reading. Part of the pleasure lies in the wonderful use of words that Moss chooses. And that's part of the annoyance, because you want to linger on the sentences. But you also feel the urgency to get on with the story and read to the conclusion. For instance, "Rove paused to let his emotions catch up to the narrative." ; and, "Miranda spun the notion around in her mind, looking for traction."

Reluctant Dead is also an homage to the settings -- Toronto, Easter Island and the Arctic. Do not expect a typical police procedural. But do expect to be entertained.

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