Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sticks and Stones by Janice MacDonald

Randy (Miranda) Craig, a part-time lecturer in the University of Alberta English Department, gets mixed up in a murder investigation in Sticks and Stones: A Randy Craig Mystery by Janice MacDonald. Steve Browning is the detective assigned to investigate the death of one of Randy's students, which may be connected to anti-feminist graffiti and poison-pen letters on campus.

I loved all the references to Edmonton landmarks, especially the bookstores. Of Audreys Books, MacDonald writes: "Nice tall stacks make it possible to browse for hours, and no one comes up behind you with a frown. There is an air of sanctity for the printed page, the same feeling you'd get in some medieval ecclesiastical library. The sun coming through the windows and dappling the dark wood helps the image."

Some establishments no longer exist, like the Paramount and much beloved Orlando Books, but the weather in December remains the same:

"One of the things that most impresses me about living in Edmonton is how the weather never seems to stop anyone. It can be forty below, and there will still be people lined up outside to get into the Paramount cinema downtown. Blizzards slow people down, but there will be a line of cars behind every snowplow. Today might be considered balmy by January standards, but it was still pretty damn cold out, and Whyte Avenue looked just as crowded as it did during the Fringe Festival in August.

Nine long blocks later, I was peeling my scarf off in Orlando Books. Jackie Dumas, the owner, a feisty activist for local culture and a gifted novelist herself, smiled at me and pointed toward the coffee machine against the wall."

MacDonald mixes humour into the suspense:

"I felt about my desk for a weapon. Where are those handy Inuit sculptures when you really need them?"

... and romance too, between Randy and Steve, the handsome police officer. It's an entertaining combination that lightens the weighty theme of misogyny. Check out MacDonald's website for the other titles in the Randy Craig mystery series.

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