Murder at Lake Ontario (DI William Gibson #2), by Kathy Garthwaite

Eight stars

Adding some Canadian flavouring to my police procedural reading, I turned to the work of Kathy Garthwaite. Detective Inspector William Gibson’s role within the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) has him being summoned across the country to help set-up a new task force, which may be just the break he needs from tensions at home. Garthwaite’s Murder at Lake Ontario is a great follow-up novel in a series showing much potential. Recommended to those who like a unique police procedural

DI William Gibson has made a name for himself within the VIIMCU, so much so that he has been asked to return to his native Ontario to help train a new task force in the Niagara region. It may be the perfect break from Victoria and his wife, Katherine, who has begun to grate on him as their relationship circles an unspoken drain.

When DI Gibson arrives in Toronto, he’s greeted by DI Rene Eckhart, not someone he’s expecting. A young and attractive woman who knows her policing, Gibson must try not to allow the spark he’s feeling for her show. When they arrive in rural Ontario, they do not have time to begin speaking with the members of the task force before they are called away to a murder scene. It would seem that Elsie Webber has been found at the bottom of a set of stairs that lead onto the beach. What sort of confrontation could have ended Canada Day on such a sour note?

Gibson and Eckhart begin their investigation, speaking with many of those who attended the local Canada Day celebrations, but no one is the wiser. People came and went at will, leaving the possibility open that Elsie’s killer could be anyone. A fraternity ring found under the body is a clue, though it would seem the potential motive for the killer must also be taken into account. Elsie was the town gossipmonger, something that soured her to many.

The case is taking up a great deal of DI Gibson’s time, but he still has moments when he can sense the attraction to his temporary partner. This is further exacerbated by the fact that he’s dodging speaking with Katherine. Thinking back to his first marriage that ended in flames, Gibson cannot help but wonder if he is destined to have the second terminate the same way. Still, he must be somewhat professional and help out where he can, seeing the case through and later determining what ought to be done about Eckhart.

With the help of the task force, Gibson and Eckhart learn a little more about the forensics left around the crime scene. There are also whispers about a long-ago drowning of a little girl and a more recent criminal accusation that came to naught. Gibson needs to find the one true path before his time in Ontario ends and he’s none the wiser!

Kathy Garthwaite does another fabulous job leading the reader on a Canadian adventure, without too many of the stereotypes. After an intense novel on Vancouver Island, Garthwaite does the unexpected and pulls her protagonist away from home and uses a secondary setting, though one he knows well. Things flowed just as well, with perfect subplots to keep the reader intrigued.

William Gibson does well as the protagonist yet again, with some interesting backstory woven into the story at the early stages. While a strong police officer with wonderful management skills, this trip to Ontario serves also as a break from the intensity that surrounded him in Victoria. The reader gets only a glimpse of the Gibson-Katherine interaction, but what is present proves highly intriguing and leaves the door open for many decisions. Gibson is able to balance his professional life with what seems to be a somewhat challenging personal one, even as temptation crosses his path when he is least expecting it. Strong willed but also one who has a heart, DI Gibson will find himself in a few precarious situations that develop throughout the narrative.

Great secondary characters again keep the reader hooked to the story. Made up mostly of local townsfolk, the supporting cast lay the groundwork for the murder investigation at hand, as well as some interesting personal interactions that keep the story moving forward. The Gibson-Eckhart chemistry is one the reader can watch develop throughout, though it will take some interesting turns at the most inopportune times.

The story felt somewhat unique for me, though I do have another Canadian procedural series I adore, set in a small town. Garthwaite paints a wonderful picture with her words and uses a strong narrative to create a believable police procedural. While there is less focus on the nuances of forensics, the point comes across and the personal interactions work well to tell the story. Using longer chapters, Garthwaite captures the reader with the intense storytelling and keeps them throughout this shorter novel. I enjoyed seeing DI William Gibson out of his element, though I wonder how many of the truths that surface in this piece will play out in the third novel this series has to offer. I suppose I will have to reach for it to see for myself.

Kudos, Madam Garthwaite, for another great novel. I love the Canadiana feel and cannot wait to see what happens when things return to British Columbia in the next novel.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: