For those of you who haven’t been to DearReader.com yet, head on over. This neat site gives you categories to choose your from, then each week the openers of the book of the week.  I would never have found Inger Ash Wolfe’s The Calling if not for this site.

The first mystery in this novel is that of the author.  The end page, sans photo, merely says: “Inger Ash Wolfe is the pseudonym for a North American literary novelist.”  Articles and blogs abound about the identity of this author, ranging from Margaret Atwood to Ian Rankin.  One email interview with the author explains her wanting to write crime suspense to stand alone without comparison to her other novels.  She explains she feels the old argument about genre fiction as the stepchild of literary fiction is ‘mostly illusory’ and this novel shows she is right.

Whether or not that mystery will be solved soon, rest assured that The Calling is crime suspense at its finest.  I can’t really call it a mystery, for we are aware of the murderer from the outset.  We think we know who he is; it is the why of his serial murder spree that must be nailed down.  His methods are at odds from traditional serial killers, making him difficult to trace.  An escalation in the crimes is what leads to their connection.

Set in the rural area north of Toronto, the small town of Port Dundas has never quite seen a crime to match that of the murder of cancer victim Delia Chandler and it falls into the lap of  61 year old Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef, a cranky, overweight detective we love at first sight.  Hazel is nursing a bad back that needs surgery, taking painkillers and trying to find food beyond the egg white omelets her mother cooks for her.  Divorced after 36 years of marriage, children grown and away, Hazel’s company these days is this widowed ex-mayor of the town, a formidable woman in her own right.

What I loved about this book was the voice Wolfe gives to her characters, large and small, averting the usual conventions of the genre without obliterating any of the suspense.  It makes for an original and riveting read, one I couldn’t put down.

I am happy to report word has it that Wolfe has finished Hazel’s second novel and I, for one, will be on the lookout for it.  Highly recommended.

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