Murder on the Saanich Peninsula (DI William Gibson #3), by Kathy Garthwaite

Eight stars

I returned for more of Kathy Garthwaite’s great Canadian police procedural novels in a smaller community on the country’s West Coast. Detective Inspector William Gibson is back in Victoria, still heading the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU). A brutal crime shocks and divides the team in Murder on the Saanich Peninsula, while adding depth to many of the central characters in the series. Recommended to those who have enjoyed the series to date and the reader looking for something a little different.

Just as DI William Gibson hopes to get out on the water again, he gets a call. A body’s turned up in Sidney, thirty minutes outside of his Victoria office. When he arrives, Gibson discovers the victim—soon identified as Dianne Meadows—has been stabbed and bled out almost immediately. The hunt for the murder weapon will take some time, especially since it could have been tossed into the water nearby.

Working alongside his partner, Detective Sergeant Ann Scott ‘Scottie’ Cruickshank, Gibson tries to come up with a preliminary list of suspects. In cases like these, the husband is always top of the list. Gibson and Scottie pay the Meadows household a visit, where a volatile husband, Kevin, and daughter take the news as well as can be expected. There’s something that leaves Gibson feeling ill at ease about it, though Scottie refuses to jump to conclusions.

When the autopsy reveals signs of domestic violence, DI Gibson is sure that he has guessed right by accusing Kevin Meadows, though Scottie is the first to remind him that abuse and murder are not always the same thing. After dispatching some of the junior members of the team to investigate Kevin’s workplace, Gibson and Scottie return to speak more intensely with Meadows. He remains vehement that he is innocent, though the daughter shares some news about a boy she’s been seeing on the side, a Ryder Simpson. This opens new possibilities that cannot be discounted, particularly when the murder weapon is located and Ryder’s fingerprints are all over it.

While the case has him busy, Gibson has a secret of his own that is burning a hole inside him. It all relates to his time back in Ontario a few months ago. He debates sharing the news with his wife, as Katherine has enough on her plate with a baby coming. Still, it may be the only way to clear the air.

As the hunt for Ryder intensifies, it will cost one of the team significantly. The murderer is out there, somewhere, though the motive is still somewhat unknown. Could Kevin have snapped and killed his wife? Might Ryder have been trying to react to his being rejected by Dianne? Or, could there be another, as yet unidentified, with reason to have acted? With a twist at the climactic moment, Kathy Garthwaite proves herself with yet another great novel!

This is yet another stellar piece of writing, set in a cozy part of the country. Without pushing too many of the Canadian stereotypes, Kathy Garthwaite offers the reader something that is both entertaining and enthralling in equal measure. I am glad that I stumbled upon the series and am eager to see what else Kathy Garthwaite has in store for fans.

William Gibson resumes the protagonist role, building on some of his backstory. The letter from Ontario plays a central part in that, though there is also some of the struggles about impending fatherhood and life with Katherine that must be faced. Gibson shows a more passionate side at work, particularly when clashing with his partner about the murder. His grit and determination have grown on me, as Garthwaite has developed him into a wonderful central character. His compassion is matched by effective leadership skills, essential for a strong police presence in these type of novels.

More great secondary characters keep the narrative afloat. With the story back on Vancouver Island, some of the regulars from the first novel are back to play their roles. However, there are also those key newcomers who play an essential role in the story. The interactions between characters is great and there is never a dull moment, either in action or dialogue bantering. Much is revealed throughout, important for the series fan to note. Garthwaite’s use of her supporting cast helps to propel the reveals throughout.

The stories get better the longer the series becomes. Each piece builds on the others, while remaining unique enough to serve as a quasi-standalone. The narrative clips along and pushes the story forward, aided by short chapters that are full of information. Garthwaite uses some interesting themes in the series as a whole, as well as with each individual book.

It would seem that the theme of family importance flows throughout this piece. Garthwaite weaves it into many of the subplots, which helps to shape the delivery of the book. Series fans will know that this is something DI William Gibson has struggled to handle throughout and much of what occurs in this piece shapes his deeper thinking on the matter.

Turning to some themes that recur in the three novels of this series, I noticed that Garthwaite has an interesting obsession with using food as a binding social event. All three books have Gibson’s need to eat or consume coffee mentioned repeatedly. While not annoying in the least, it was quite humorous to see how the cases progress with mention of good food and hearty conversation over such breaks. Steering clear of obvious name dropping of local eateries, Garthwaite has me wondering about visiting Vancouver Island and the Niagara region to see if these places exist.

One other thing worth mentioning, though I will be the first to say that it did not play a role in my rating of this book, is the use of language. I have long held that an author should use language and terminology inherent to where the story takes place, not their own idioms (particularly if they are not from the region where the story is set). While Garthwaite is American (according to some brief research I have done), she lives on the Island. What baffles me at times is the use of British idioms for things, which might have something to do with her publisher. There is a note that ‘Canadian English’ is used, though there are some strong British terms used throughout. These things did leap out at me, though they were not troublesome. It stuck in my craw and I wanted to put it down, once I had read the DI William Gibson trilogy. Perhaps others will not notice them, of that I cannot be sure.

Kudos, Madam Garthwaite, for showing your talents yet again. I hope others will come across your work and enjoy it as much as I have. Now then, onto a standalone you’ve recently penned, as I continue my binge reading of your work!

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

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:

Murder on Vancouver Island (DI William Gibson #1), by Kathy Garthwaite

Eight stars

Looking to add a little Canadian flavouring to my police procedurals, I turned to the work of Kathy Garthwaite. With a murder on Canada’s far West Coast, the reader meets the gritty Detective Inspector William Gibson and his role within the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU), all While looking into the murder on university grounds. Garthwaite’s Murder on Vancouver Island is a great debut in a series with much potential. Recommended to those who like something away from the ‘major’ police procedurals out on the market today.

DI William Gibson cherishes his days off, particularly when it allows him to leave his Victoria home early in the morning and spend some quiet time in his kayak. When he is interrupted doing just that, DI Gibson knows it must be something significant and makes his way to the campus of the University of Victoria.

When DI Gibson arrives, he takes in the scene. A maintenance man, Robbie Spencer, has been murdered after being struck on the back of the head with a baseball bat. Spencer is still in civilian clothes, making it seem the attack occurred while he was just arriving. When the body is moved, an errant, unused condom is found under him, which leads to many questions. With a preliminary time of death between 5:30-7:00am, many of Spencer’s colleagues appear likely suspects.

DI Gibson turns to his partner, Detective Sergeant Ann Scott ‘Scottie’ Cruickshank to handle the scene. She begins interrogating the other maintenance men, all of whom cite their presence at a safety meeting that began around 5:30am. However, talk about a Hallowe’en party the night before opens up some possibilities, when one of the crew got into a skirmish with Spencer. Questions about Spencer’s sexual orientation are bandied about, even as he has a wife and child at home, which leads DI Gibson to wonder if the brutal attack might have been targeted.

While Scottie and Gibson begin trying to hash things out, the burning question of the brutality of the attack cannot be dismissed. DI Gibson begins to wonder if a hate crime might be on the table, even as his superiors refuse to entertain the idea. After an awkward interview with Spencer’s wife, the police learn that the victim was sitting on quite a large sum of money, which was to be dispersed amongst a few key family members. With a few motives and a handful of suspects, it will take some serious legwork to make sense of things.

While the case slogs along, DI Gibson is pulled into his personal life, when his wife, Katherine, has a nervous breakdown over the phone. It is the anniversary of her sister’s death and Gibson cannot promise when he will be home. It worries him, though he tries to deflect it, hoping that Katherine will understand and promises to be home soon. Still, he cannot help but wonder if there is more going on under the surface.

When forensics offer no clear suspect, it is up to a few secondary interviews by Scottie and DI Gibson that will narrow the field of possibles, with one at the centre of the case. An attack on a homeless man leaves DI Gibson wondering if there is a connection, even if it might dismiss his hate crime angle. Time’s running out and a killer remains on the loose, potentially free to strike again.

Kathy Garthwaite does a great job taking the reader on a Canadian adventure in this thriller without tapping into too many of the stereotypical expectations that many may have. Set in Victoria, the story’s setting offers something unique and adventurous, while also fuelling some great subplots throughout.

William Gibson does well as the protagonist in this piece, providing the reader with a little backstory and some great development. A transplant from Ontario, he leapt at the chance to work within the VIIMCU and has not looked back. He can appear narrow minded when it comes to his work, but he feels his time with the police has honed his gut instincts. Able to balance his professional life with what seems to be a somewhat challenging personal one, Gibson does the best he can. His grit will hopefully continue as the series develops, but I am eager to see where Garthwaite will take him in the next few books.

Great secondary characters keep the reader intrigued about the story and how they interact. The reader is given some great people in the supporting cast, who are able to keep the narrative moving and the plot thickening. The Gibson-Scottie duo is one that I am eager to see blossom a little more, as I can see there being something there on a professional level. Same goes for the Gibson-Katherine storyline, as the latter has already revealed some things in a subplot the reader can find for themselves. Garthwaite also uses her characters to tackle some social issues, which may be of keen interest to the reader.

The story may not be unique, but the elements offer up an individuality that will stick with the reader. Hate crimes, sexual orientation, and bullying in the workplace all play key roles in the narrative, which is pushed along with some great writing. Garthwaite mixes different chapter lengths into her novel to keep the reader hooked and pushing forward. While the book does not appear to be long, there are moments that it gets intense and the reader will slow their pace so as not to miss anything. I am eager to get my hands on the second novel in the series to see how it compares.

Kudos, Madam Garthwaite, for a great debut. You have me very curious and that means I’m ready to take the plunge into BOOK 2!

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