Thursday, June 16, 2016

Garner's Sin Sniper is not crummy

“I see,” said the inspector, his voice modulating once again. “What’s your trade, Dightwood?”

“I’m a folk singer.”

“Before that?”

“I was a CNR brakeman in Moncton.”

“How’d you lose that job?”

“I quit when my marriage broke up. I decided to come up this way.”

“Was your hair down to your shoulders when you were riding a CNR crummy?”

Dightwood smiled at the inspector’s use of the word “crummy” for caboose. “No, Sir. The long hair is just part of my act.”

Contrary to that exchange between Inspector McDumont and a long-haired, hippy folk singer suspect, The Sin Sniper has nothing to do with trains and such, although the gritty realism of the novel no doubt has some roots in the author’s years hoboing across Canada and the US during The Depression. It’s the story of an investigation by the Toronto Police into the shooting of five women in downtown’s Moss Park area over a week in late March of 1965. It’s a tough tale and not for the fainthearted.

Lurid cover aside, the novel is a straight ahead police procedural, but what makes it unique is its strength of characterization of Moss Park, its inhabitants, the police, and mid-60's Toronto in general. And the Toronto characterization is quite good: the further I read, the more it sent a traceroute to all those deep memories I have of that long ago city I thought were purged from my mind. I guess one couldn’t expect anything less from a literary heavy hitter like Hugh Garner.

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