A Little More Free / John McFetridge
Toronto: ECW Press, c2015.
Labour Day, 1972, Montreal. Eddie Dougherty, a half-French,
half-Irish patrolman in a mostly French police force, is angling for a
promotion to Detective.
Fortunately for him, but not so much for the victims, he is called to
an emergency: a nightclub fire. After it’s all over, there are 37 dead.
His level-headed presence at the scene is noted, and he’s asked to take
on undercover work relating to a robbery at the Montreal Museum of Fine
Arts. And then he gets assigned to a case investigating the murder of a
young American, who turns out to be a Vietnam War deserter.
There is a lot of content about the social conditions at this time, and it is mostly woven in smoothly, though once in a while the detail becomes a bit heavy. But 1970s Montreal is a fascinating time, with political upheaval and the
cultural divide shaping daily life, with Expo 67 just over and the
Olympics on the way. McFetridge uses Montreal as a character in itself,
naming streets and restaurants, bus routes and neighbourhoods. Along
with politics, he also weaves in student protest culture, urban
development, the mafia, geography, and of course, hockey.
The book takes place during the entire length of the famous 1972
USSR-Canada hockey series, capped off with the legendary Henderson goal —
with all kinds of people watching and discussing the Russians’
surprising play. It’s a useful metaphor for something McFetridge is
commenting on throughout this whole book: the ways in which we don’t
really know those whom we consider our enemies.
Eddie is a great character, full of realistic self-doubts and flaws.
But he’s also committed to policing and to helping others. The inclusion
of both his family and romantic relationships rounds out his character.
He is someone you want to keep reading about – which is great as this
is the second book in a series. This title can definitely stand alone,
without your having read the first book, though. Both the character and his setting are very strong, and I think anyone who knows Montreal will be especially interested in following Eddie's exploits.
This is a crime novel that explores our past, and shows that people
remain much the same no matter where or when we live. The characters are
a lively combination of male and female, French and English, police --
and those suspicious of the police. It’s a quick, eventful read, but
also explores the inner workings of many of these characters. If you
haven’t yet met up with patrolman Eddie Dougherty, pick up this novel
and walk the streets of Montreal with him.
(read the first chapter here!)
For more Montreal mystery, try John Farrow's Detective Emile Cinq-Mars series, which strongly evokes Montreal's history, or perhaps even Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan books, which are partly set in Montreal and follow a forensic anthropologist's work.