Thursday, February 15, 2018

Read: "A Little More Free" by John McFetridge

Read: A Little More Free by John McFetridge, 2015, 9781770412644.

I really, really enjoy the Montreal setting of this series.

This is set in 1972, a couple years after Constable Eddie Dougherty was a young cop in Black Rock and helping out Detective Carpentier on a murder case. Eddie is now a lot more experienced as a patrol officer and he knows the city of Montreal and it's people. As a half English-half French he is also more comfortable with the officers of the mostly French police department.

There a few things going on in this one. Eddie starts working with Carpentier on another murder. He starts dating a Leftie Protestor he meets during the murder investigation. He  responds to a night club fire that kills 37 people. He and the rest of Montreal are captivated by the summertime hockey series between Canada and the "amateur" Soviet hockey team. His father has a heart attack and Eddie cannot deal with his father, a man in his 50s, laid up and helpless in a hospital room.

Eddie also still wants to be a Detective. When he catches a call about a body at the base of some steps by Mount Royal it is Detective Carpentier who gets the case. Eddie's interest in Detective work waxes and wanes a little throughout the novel as Eddie works alongside Carpentier and experiences the job. But, Eddie is also dedicated and works extra hours (paid and unpaid) to chase leads.

The murder victim was a U.S. Army deserter who fled to Canada and was active in the anti-war groups in Montreal. Murder Victim was an illegal immigrant and, unable to legally get a job, was working the drug business. Eddie starts talking to protestors, leftists, deserters, and draft dodgers. He starts talking to drug dealers, low level mobsters, and other unsavory dudes.

Eddie is a right-wing kinda guy but confused by his almost immediate attraction to a work boot wearing, left-wing chick who is very active in protest movements against the war and real estate development.  Eddie has poor opinions of deserters and draft dodgers. He grew up surrounded by WWII vets and he sees their service as a automatic thing for everyone. Those WWII veterans almost never speak about their time in the Army but Eddie does connect that horror with Vietnam combat.

The novel follows Eddie police procedural style as he learns the tactics of interviewing, uses shoe leather on tracking people down, and mostly avoids thinking about his ill father.

The novel is a story of opposing sides. The City is split in several ways. English and French - also noted as West Island and East Island. Left and Right politics.  Protesters and rich developers. Young and old. Eddie is about 27 and is starting to feel separate from the night club crowds he used to hang out with. He also still straddles the French-English divide with his Irish father and French mom; some French cops still call him Dog-Eh-Dee. Eddie himself is still sees life as right and wrong and black and white. But, he is also starting to see the grey and understand other people.

I think McFetridge does some great writing. His work is descriptive but never overlong. There is a great conversation at the midpoint between Eddie and Work Boot Girl about what interests them both and motivates them. I think the scene is really great because both characters are in their mid-twenties and starting to questions what and why they do things. Their initial impressions about work and politics are being questioned as they run into the practical problems of life and troublesome people. They are both smart and somewhat self aware and it makes for an interesting conversation for the reader.

1. I may have mentioned before that my wife and I traveled to Montreal after we got married in Vermont. (Or, New Hampshire. The one on the right side of the map.) I was thinking a couple days ago about how much I enjoyed the Montreal Arboretum and the penguin display in the Biodome. In 1999 and 2000 I used to regularly watch the Biodomes webcam of the penguin habitat.
2. I also used to regularly visit a couple real estate websites and check out the apartments and condos in the cit and daydream of living there.
3. It's the 1970s so Eddie doesn't actually have Work Boot Girl as a girlfriend. They don't know what they are because they both avoid the topic and neither one seems to care that much about it. Eddie does like her quite a bit though and thinks of her often.
4. The dead deserter is from Madison, WI. I was expecting a tie-in to the 1970 campus bombing and the search for the four bombers.


col2910 said...

I enjoyed the first in this series - Black Rock? Haven't got back to the rest.

Gerard Saylor said...

Yes, BLACK ROCK. I have the 3rd one on hand, ONE OR THE OTHER, which is set in the '76 Olympics.