Reviewed by Jim Napier
For the past two decades, Ottawa writer Brenda Chapman has earned legions of avid followers for her wide-ranging and deftly told crime dramas. After a series of standalones, she completed eight Anna Sweet mysteries before launching her Stonechild and Rouleau tales, seven stories about a homicide sergeant and a native female detective constable, set variously in Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario. This series has earned her worldwide acclaim and has attracted interest not only in Canada but also in the UK and the English-speaking world.
Always motivated to extend her range, Chapman has recently launched a third series, this time featuring an amateur sleuth named Ella Tate and her police-detective sidekick, Liam Hunter.
The first in the series, Blind Date, finds Ella attempting to mark out a new career for herself. When she’s made redundant at an Ottawa newspaper, Ella goes online with a true-crime podcast. Just as the podcast’s following is ramping up, her world goes off the rails. A young woman has been assaulted. After leaving the hospital prematurely the victim is found in her apartment, hanged. The woman had recently moved into Ella’s former apartment, looked very similar to Ella, and even appropriated her name for online dating. Then two other people close to her become the victims of violent crime, and Ella realizes her own life might be in danger.
Ella strives to connect the dots but is frustrated at every turn. Then she begins to get ominous messages, some on her podcast, “Danny got what he deserved.” And then, more ominously on her cell phone: “You’re next, bitch.” Does the answer lie in her podcasts exposing peoples’ wrongdoing? Or does it lie closer to home? Set largely in the Glebe area of Ottawa, the city has seldom looked so threatening.
Never at a loss to weave a spellbinding story, Chapman has seamlessly made the transition from portraying police detectives to depicting an amateur sleuth in over her heady. Ella Tate is all too believable as a committed (if often naïve) young woman in search of the truth. That she may be at times headstrong is a forgivable, even beguiling, trait. The other characters, including a mentoring police detective, his younger partner, a gay neighbour jilted by his lover, and an Irish gym owner and close friend also at risk from persons unknown, are all fully fleshed and engaging characters. Chapman also draws on her considerable knowledge of Ottawa and its environs. The result is a credible, well-crafted story that will keep readers turning the page and when finished, thirsting for more. Highly recommended.
Blind Date is published by Ivy Bay Press Press.
In addition to being a reviewer with over six hundred reviews to his credit, Jim Napier is the acclaimed author of Legacy and Ridley’s War, in the British-based Colin McDermott mystery series.