Wednesday 27 November 2013

Book review : The Body on the T - Mike Martin

When I plucked Mike Martin's novel The Body on the T off my bookshelf, my immediate reaction was to wonder : what's the T? Well, it turns out that it's a T-shaped beach in the small Canadian town of  Grand Bank, Newfoundland. We meet (or catch up with - this is the second book featuring him) Sgt Winston Windflower, an officer in the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). It's a rather remote, sleepy town which gets a rude awakening when a mysterious corpse floats up on to the shore. Winston and his team must discover the identity of the victim and, ultimately, uncover the criminal goings on that he was involved in when he met his death.

It starts off like pretty much any other crime novel with the investigative procedure, the shock discoveries and the banter and office politics of the squad room. Then Sgt Windflower's girlfriend, Sheila, who runs the town's cafe, is involved in a road accident that leaves her fighting for her life. I was expecting this to be linked into the main plotline of the dead body - maybe she knew something and the bad guys wanted to bump her off? maybe it was to send a warning to her detective boyfriend to back off? - but no, it was an accident, caused by a careless young driver not looking out for the moose roaming about in the fog. Sgt Windflower's attention is understandably split between his injured girlfriend and the case and he has to divide his time between continuing the investigation and visiting her in the hospital. Inevitably, so does the narrative and, while the story of Sheila's accident and resulting injuries is poignant, I did feel it drew attention away from the main event, the body on the beach.

At times, I felt that the plot was lagging - there were an awful lot of identical hospital visits, bumping into the doctor and going to eat in the canteen - and I'm not sure we needed to know what Winston ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day (although I was fascinated to find out that cod tongues are a Canadian delicacy !). On the other hand, certain aspects felt glossed over - Winston's Cree heritage and his mysterious daily smudging ceremonies were only briefly mentioned, whereas I'd have loved to hear more about this aspect of his life.

After the interlude at the hospital (interspersed with brief updates on the work front), the police investigation all just seemed to fall into place very quickly and easily, with no build-up of suspense or tension, no high-octane car chases or excitement. I felt that it went out with a whimper rather than a bang. I know TV cop shows and most crime fiction "sexes up" criminal investigations, cutting out the boring parts and exaggerating the drama, but there is a reason for that - it makes good TV/fiction ! 

It's not a bad book at all though, and I did enjoy reading it. It could have done with a bit more editing, fleshing out the characters and giving it a bit more oomph, but overall the slower pace of the novel does accurately reflect the atmosphere of smalltown life in Newfoundland.

star rating : 4/5

Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : A Ghost At The Door - Michael Dobbs

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Cheryl. Hope things are well in France!!
    Mike Martin


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