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: