By David Russell
I’ll bet there aren’t many who’d like to go back in time to high school days. I have to admit, I loved my senior year so no problems there. But a short visit of 423 pages? Not necessarily as appealing.
But if you love a smart-mouthed, self-deprecating lawyer turned high school teacher, then this is the book for you. Last Dance is the second in the Winston Patrick series. The first, Deadly Lessons was short-listed for an Arthur Ellis Best First Novel from Crime Writers of Canada in 2007.
Russell has brought Winston back to Sir John A. MacDonald Secondary School in Vancouver. And of course, Winston’s best pal, Detective Andrea Pearson from the Vancouver Police is here again to try to keep him out of trouble. As is his ex-wife, Sandi, who’s about to give birth and convinces Winston that, since she won’t reveal the name of the father, he – Winston – needs to stand by her through the pre-natal classes and the birth itself.
Throw in the fact that it’s countdown to graduation day for Winston’s class of seniors, and that’s a lot on his plate. He’s quick to add more to the mix when he directs his law class in preparing a lawsuit against that very school and the school board, for not allowing one of the male students, Tim, to invite his boyfriend as his prom date.
It should be fairly straight forward, but the hate this act unleashes ends up with Tim being beaten and tied to a goal post on the athletic field, the school being covered in homophobic graffiti, and a death. Along the way, Winston’s beloved SAAB convertible is vandalized and his condo building is torched. Oh, yes…and Andrea is shot.
The writing is crisp, snappy dialogue, the pacing is fast and the setting is wonderfully Vancouver! (I’m a BC gal at heart!) We travel through the Kitsilano area by daylight and overnight run along the streets of the city as Winston struggles with insomnia, and search the wilds of Queen Elizabeth Park looking for clues at best, bodies at worst.
I thought I’d spotted the killer part way through. And I was right but the motive was a surprise. There were a couple of moments of disbelief, but none of this prevented my enjoying the ride. And waiting to find out what awaits Winston Patrick next time around.