Reviewed by Jim Napier
On Vancouver Island preparations are underway for a charity bike ride known as the Tour de Rock. Taking place over two weeks, it’s a thousand-kilometer ride the length of the island to raise funds in support of child cancer victims and research. RCMP Corporal Danutia Dranchuk is taking part this year, for a very special reason—in Calgary her nephew Jonathan is battling leukemia. Her plans are falling nicely into place when her sister Alyne phones with news—Jonathan is currently in remission, and she wants to bring him along on the ride, in an RV, as a morale booster. Alyne’s husband Chad has recently lost his mother and father, and a get-away from Chad will be good for both Alyne and her son. The bike ride is beginning to come together as a very special experience for everyone involved.
As the cycling group wends its way down the island from Port Hardy to Victoria, the layered odyssey broadens to include the lives of others not directly concerned with the charity event. There is Lee Telford, a rock climber who’s been doing some geological survey work; and Celia Shepherd, a woman with her own agenda, and not above taking advantage of some confidential information if it will benefit her; there is her new stepfather Tom Oliver, who’s own father had died and left his property to his grandson—a source of some bitterness for Tom, and for Alyne’s husband, Chad. Badly in debt, Chad's situation is forcing him to consider desperate measures. Danutia must also balance her concerns for the event and her sister and nephew against the troubled relationship with her partner Arthur and their daughter Anna. Plenty for the reader to chew on.
The event is hardly underway when a series of misadventures seem to overtake the participants. One of the media members of the cycling team, Jude Cahill, is killed by a hit-and-run driver. Disturbingly, a crumpled note is found in her pocket. It reads “Cancer can’t be beaten.” When other riders get similar notes the ride takes on an ominous tone, and the narrative shifts to the viewpoint of an unknown person, the driver who killed Jude Cahill. Her death was clearly no accident; this is a man on a mission.
Canadian crime writers Kay Stewart and Chris Bullock have delivered an original and suspenseful tale set against a varied landscape that takes in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Vancouver Island and the towns of West Saanich and Port Hardy, and the cities of Victoria and Vancouver. The plot is believable and the characters are drawn from everyday life. The dialogue, too, is well handled.
Based on an actual charity event on Vancouver Island organized by a group called Cops for Cancer, the story builds on the character of Danutia Dranchuk, featured in three previous novels, A Deadly Little List, Sitting Lady Sutra, and Unholy Rites. This latest foray into Danutia’s complex life as a mother and RCMP constable will appeal to followers of the series and earn the authors many new readers.
Tour de Mort is published by Friesen Press.
Jim Napier is a professional crime-fiction reviewer based in Canada. Since 2005 his book reviews and author interviews have been featured in several Canadian newspapers and on multiple websites, and his own novel Legacy is scheduled to appear in June of 2017. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org