Friday, October 2, 2015

Done: "Black Rock" by John McFetridge.

Done: Black Rock by John McFetridge, 2014, 9781550229752.

A little time capsule from 1970 Montreal. I took a while to warm up to this one and ended up liking it quite a bit.

Constable Eddie Dougherty is about 25-years-old and English in predominately French Quebec. Montreal is enduring a cascade of dynamite bombs set off by the FLQ and who-knows-who-else. The government says, "Foreign interests are to blame." The cops say, "Look in the backyard for the bombers." Constable Dougherty - Dog-Eh-Dee to the French speakers - spends many days chasing bomb calls, searching for bombs and guarding bombing scenes.

But, Dougherty also gets detailed to pick up a drunk Detective. The Detective is in an English bar in Eddie's old neighborhood, The Point. Detective Carpentier is surrounded by angry locals who want Carpentier to be out looking for a missing local girl rather than drinking in the bar. Eddie gets Carpentier out and learns several girls have gone missing and the cops are looking for a guy named Bill who may be killing the young women. Eddie was on the scene for one of those dead victims. Eddie also knows the missing Point girl.  Two days later her body is found.

Carpentier calls Eddie to help identify the corpse. Eddie recognizes a unique similarity between the two bodies and tells Carpentier. Eddie escorts Carpentier to notify the family. Most City of Montreal detectives are assigned to the anti-terror squad and the murder squad has no manpower. Eddie starts helping Carpentier. He puts in his spare time talking to locals and looking for a white Lincoln seen nearby. Eddie tries to get an informant by schmoozing with former Point neighbor and buying dope from him. Mid-20s Eddie does some drinking, meets some women, listens to older cops.

The case unfolds over several months as the bombings ratchet up in frequency and size. Eddie is only involved in the murder case because no one else is around to do the job. As Eddie works his job McFetridge gives a great picture of 1970 Montreal. The counter culture has turned revolutionary. Teenagers want to party. Young men have shaggy hair and desire revolution. Cops are not trusted. The government doesn't seem to care about the bombs until rich people are targeted. Political and economic trouble means union strikes and Parliamentary posturing. Quebecois want independence. Federals want to make Quebec happy.

Dougherty spends more time on the case and meets a grad student in anthropology who researches killers. Dougherty digs her and they spend time but nothing sticks. Dougherty is angry with the killer. He wants resolution and justice. They catch the guy but the victory is hollow and lacks the finale and decisive ending Doughtery wants for the case.

1. I like reading about Montreal. The city has a neat history and after my short trip there in 1999 I've always wanted to return. The English-French divide is in the novel with separated neighborhoods and language issues. Dougherty's mother is French and straddles both sides.
2. Several police departments across several suburbs on Montreal Island. This was before the police and city services were merged across the area.

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

He is a darn good writer and I need to get to this new series.