Thomas King is back with another instalment in his series of books featuring ex-cop now photographer Thumps DreadfulWater. A Matter of Malice, from Harper Collins Canada, sees our erstwhile hero dealing with everything from his ongoing relationship difficulties, adult onset diabetes, to being propositioned by a reality TV show specialized in raking over the coals of unsolved cases.
The show in question, Malice Aforethought has swept into the small town of Chinook under the auspices of looking into the death of a local poor little rich girl. Trudy Samuels had gone off the rails long before her death – drink and drugs. So when she turned up dead at the bottom of cliff it was easy to rule it as misadventure, in spite of her step-mum’s claims her ne’re-do-well Native American boyfriend had killed her.
Nobody paid much mind to her claims at the time, especially as they were obviously tinged with racism, but now the boyfriend in question is a famous novelist. It seems the chance of exposing dirt on the famous is more than enough reason for a reality TV show to take an interest.
At first DreadfulWater doesn’t understand why the producers approach him to be part of the show, the murder took place long before he came to Chinook. While part of it is they think he’ll be of some use in solving the case, they also have an ulterior motive. DreadfulWater had walked away from police work after he had worked an unsolved serial killing case; a serial killer who had killed his partner and her daughter. The show wants to use him to re-open that case.
However, when one of the people involved in producing the show is found dead in the exact same spot as Trudy Samuels, all bets are off. DreadfulWater finds himself summarily deputized by his buddy the town sherif and investigating two murders. Are the two connected, or is it just some horrible coincidence?
For those familiar with the DreadfulWater series you’ll be delighted to find King has reunited his lead character with the same wonderful group of people who have populated the previous books in the series. Each character is like a facet that adds another layer of lustre to the gleam of a highly polished gem.
King has the wonderful ability to not only spin an interesting and captivating mystery story, but to populate it with characters you enjoy spending time with. In fact, DreadfulWater’s life and his friends are almost as fascinating as the mystery they all find themselves drawn into.
One of the major reasons A Matter of Malice is such a delight to read are King’s characters. While the mystery is obviously the thread which the holds the story together, the people who populate the book are the beads which give it texture and colour.
Matter of Malice by Thomas King is that rare example of a mystery story where character and plot come together in a perfect union. Funny, wise and sad all at the same time, its a lovely book and a joy to read
(Originally posted at Blogcritics.org as Book Review: A Matter of Malice by Thomas King)
Richard Marcus is the author of two commissioned works published by Ulysses Press, editor in the books section of Blogcritics.org and contributor at Qantara.de. He has been writing since 2005 and his work has appeared in publications all over the world including the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.