Gunshots shatter the stillness of a rainy night in an upscale neighbourhood in St. John's, Newfoundland. Harrison Rose, a businessman and war veteran, lies dead. To find the killer, Inspector Eric Stride confronts the darker side of post-World War II St. John's: a lady of the evening who appears on his doorstep, a hard-scrabble labourer who shovels coal for a living, a prosperous businessman with a secret.
Along the way, Stride confronts treachery and betrayal. He also encounters opposition from inside government, when officials attempt to stymie his investigation. As Stride unravels the mystery, he also confronts his own sense of justice in a world where violence has become a way of life.
Synopsis taken from goodreads.
Title: Death of a Lesser Man (Inspector Stride Mystery Series #3)
Author: Thomas Rendell Curran
Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Mystery
Publisher: Boulder Publications
Publication Date: April 7, 2011
Source: Received from publicist. Many thanks goes to Taryn for sending me a copy of this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
Look for it: Amazon
My rating: 4/5
Death of a Lesser Man tells the story of a man who, while out for a walk, ends up being shot and killed. Inspector Eric Stride is on the case to find out why Rose was killed. He will need to uncover every secret Rose has before things fall into place. Stride is an affable character, one who travels both the light and seedy sides of town looking for his man. All is not as it seems, and Stride will have to deal with treachery amongst even his own government as there are those who don't want to see Rose's killer or secrets brought to light.
Death of a Lesser Man is a historical mystery, and a good one at that. With many characters jumping off of the pages, and vivid recollections of the Great War, this is an absolutely fantastic read. Curran knows what he's talking about and brings history to life in this, the third installment in his Inspector Stride mystery series. It is not necessary to read the previous books in the series before picking up this one. Any information needed is readily available and is doled out throughout the book which keeps the reader up to speed without feeling like they have had a ton of information dumped on them. From the start I had an inkling of 'whodunit' but found that the ending surprised me when the killer and his or her reasonings were revealed.
Curran uses the rich history of Newfoundland to set the tone for the book, and we see how difficult life was for those who went to war and never returned, but also for those who came back. As Death of a Lesser Man states, many went in and came out different men. Their recollections make the history of Newfoundland and Newfoundland's place in the war stand out, giving the reader a history lesson without being overly verbose.
All in all, an extraordinary and richly detailed mystery, true to Newfoundland's history. Historical fans, as well as mystery fans are sure to enjoy Death of a Lesser Man as it brings the best of history and mystery together and combines them in a thoroughly realistic setting. Death of a Lesser Man is a captivating and thrilling read.
It is my honour to have Thomas Rendell Curran here today. He's answered a few questions for me. I hope you enjoy the interview!
What is your favourite line from Death of a Lesser Man?
I have any number of “favourite” lines. They came and they go, and match the situation and context of the book’s section. One favourite, and really important, line comes when Inspector Stride is speaking with the coroner, Dr. Butcher, at the scene of the crime that opens the book, the killing of Harrison Rose; and it’s the line that frames the investigation that follows, and sets the storyline. Butcher has examined the body, and has found three bullet wounds, two in the chest and one in the head. (Stride was the first officer on the scene because the murder took place very near his house.) The line:
“The thing is, Thomas, I heard only two shots.”
Two shots, two shell cases at the scene, but three bullet wounds. The narrative grows out of those competing observations.
Are there any little known facts about Newfoundland that you'd like to share with us?
My books have focused on Newfoundland’s history and its “place in the world” if I can put it that way. It’s a fascinating place, and I am not reluctant to state that I learned a lot more about my home territory – I was born in St. John’s in 1939, and grew up there – during the writing of my books than I had ever known before. The time setting of the three books, 1947, almost dictates that the Second World War will play a major role, because of all that went on in Nfld. during and after the war. The American and Canadian presence in Nfld during the war was huge. For the record, the Americans were more popular than the Canadians, and there was a movement after the war for Nfld to join the USA, but of course it was Canada that won out there, in large part because the American Government took a hands-off policy when the Confederation debate started up in earnest in 1947-48. There were American troops stationed in Nfld in January 1941, almost a year before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and American military bases were under construction all over the island even before then. The first wartime meeting between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill took place in Nfld, on warships in Placentia Bay in August of 1941, when the Atlantic Charter was drafted and signed. The busiest airport in the world during WW2 was in Gander, Nfld, which was the transfer point for American and Canadian-built bombers crossing the Atlantic to Britain. And so on. All of that activity, of course, transformed Nfld from a rather sleepy, and some would say feudal, resource-based economy to a more modern economy. The social changes were enormous.
Death of a Lesser Man and your previous novels are all set in post-war Newfoundland. How true to Newfoundland's history are the novels based?
Historical research is a mainstay of my books. I have worked very hard to “get it right”, and with some very minor exceptions I have gotten the history right. And it’s not just the larger historical facts that I got right, I also got the social and physical context right. I grew up there, and my memories from that period – one of the advantages of being “old” – are very strong. Reviewers in Nfld, and readers too, have been impressed at how well I have described the time period.
If you could meet any character from any book written, which character and book would it be and why?
Well, that is a toughie. In mystery fiction – of which I do not read a huge amount, but do read some – I would like to meet Ross Macdonald’s protagonist, Lew Archer. He is complex, thoughtful, and passionate. Violent and hard when he has to be, but able to understand the complexity of human actions and frailties. ( Very recently, I re-watched the only half-decent film portrayal of Lew Archer, Paul Newman’s “Harper”, and was disappointed to see that Newman’s take on the character was much more Newman than Archer. A vastly better approximation of the Archer character is in the Gene Hackman film “Night Moves”; Hackman’s Harry Moseby is much closer to my idea of what Archer is like, even though the film is not based on one of Macdonald’s books. And “Night Moves” is a much better film than “Harper”.) To a degree I have modeled Eric Stride on Archer, and my three books adopt Macdonald’s “past is prologue” approach to crime fiction. Among writers of “serious” fiction, I would like to meet almost any of Ian McEwan’s characters. He is probably my favourite novelist. “Saturday” is one of my favourite books; “Atonement” is another. In the short-story category, John Updike is among my favourites. It’s impossible to settle on just one character from the hundreds he created in that genre, but I will mention one: David Kern from the story “Pigeon Feathers”, a story I have read a dozen times, but always find new and exciting each time I read it. It’s a kind of coming-of-age story, but that simple descriptive does not do it justice. A very complex portrayal of a complex individual. Keeping in mind that all individuals are amazingly complex.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
On mystery writing generally – and I am aware that I am not prolific, with only three novels in just over ten years – I would like to say that I do not have a “formula” – which my friend and fellow-writer Barbara Fradkin calls the “F-word”. I think my books are formulaic only in the sense that they are police procedurals, and that they comprise a series – albeit, thus far, a short series. There are essentially two schools of, or approaches to, mystery fiction, as I understand it. There is the approach that has the book totally mapped out before the real writing commences. I heard Anne Perry say in an interview that she takes that approach. The other is to start with an event or a character and then see where the story goes after that. That is the approach that I take. A few years ago, I attended a festival which had as a guest of honour, Eric Wright, one of the masters of Canadian crime fiction. He was asked how he created his characters and his stories. He replied that he sat in his study and looked at the hedge at the bottom of his garden and waited and watched as the characters emerged from the foliage to tell him their story. Or words to that effect. That is what I like to do. Except that I don’t have a hedge at the bottom of my garden. Maybe, given the problems I am having getting my fourth Inspector Stride moving ahead, I should think about having a hedge installed.
Thank you so much for those answers, Tom! I love how true to history your novels are and I'll definitely be reading the rest of them!
Tom has graciously provided Lost For Words with a signed, finished copy of Death of a Lesser Man.
Thank you Tom and Taryn for this amazing giveaway!
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