A Door in the River has a promising start.
Henry Wiest, well regarded hardware store owner and talented repairman, in Port Dundas is found dead in the parking lot of a smoke shop on a nearby Indian reserve. (cigarettes can be sold for much less on the reserve as they are not taxed the same).
The autopsy concludes he has died from a heart attack caused by an allergic reaction to being stung by a wasp. The reserve police find no evidence of foul play.
Inherently distrustful, Hazel is troubled. Why was Henry at the back of the parking lot late in the evening? Why was he on the reserve? What wasps are out at night? Why the allergic reaction when he has no history of problems with being stung?
Hazel forces a second autopsy and the pathologist determines Henry had actually been shot with some form of stun gun, an unknown variation on a Taser.
Returning to the reserve Hazel is troubled by the laidback attitude in the reserve police force to investigating what happened. The focus of the reserve is keeping its large and successful casino operating efficiently.
At the same time a mysterious young woman emerges from the woods and attacks Henry’s widow, Cathy, using the same weapon with which she attacked Henry. Cathy survives. While she was unconscious the assailant has searched financial records in the house and taken $2,500 in cash but left several thousand dollars more behind.
Hazel and her fellow officers become a task force investigating the crimes. She struggles to find connections in the evidence.
At the same time her feisty mother, Emily, almost 88 has suddenly aged. Emily, the octogenarian spitfire, has become muted. The spark that animated her is gone.
At the office the re-organization that will bring her former subordinate, Ray Greene, back as her commander is proceeding.
An intriguing mystery is under way but suddenly the plot veers from credible to a form of comic book reality. The second half of A Door in the River is a schizophrenic departure from the rest of the series. I found myself asking who wrote the second half and why?
As in some of the Armand Gamache books of Louise Penny there is a secret place in the countryside. Lots of people come and go. In A Door in the River the place is underground which makes it even more unreal. It could not have stayed a secret in rural North America. Rural residents know who and what is in their neighbourhood.
How the police penetrate the place takes too great a suspension of disbelief though what actually occurs in the secret place is unfortunately believable.
How Hazel acts and reacts as the plot is resolved is out of her character. She is not credible as a violent avenging police officer.
The second half would fit well into the script of a Hollywood blockbuster comic book movie. It does not serve Hazel and the reader well.
A regular mystery does not transpose well into a wild modern thriller.
If the author, Michael Redhill, still writing under the pseudonym of Inger Ash Wolfe had wanted to venture into the unreality of modern thrillers he would have done far better to have just created a new lead character and written a thriller for the whole book.
If he was intending an allegory it did not work for me.
If it was recommended to him that he needed to increase the violence quotient and make his work creepy mysterious he received bad advice.
I do not know what happened to Redhill but it would be hard to convince me to read another Hazel Micallef mystery.
Because of my strong feelings with regard to the book I looked up other online reviews after writing this review. I wanted to see how other reviewers reacted to the book. My next post has quotes from those reviews.