Quill & Quire
John Moss introduced his detective duo, David Morgan and Miranda Quin, in last year’s Still Waters
. They were an appealing team, navigating the bounds of professional partnership and personal involvement, more prone to banter and introspection than active investigation. Now they return in a new adventure that has a sordid mix of gruesome death, gothic overtones, and ancient rites. But the end result resembles an undercooked pie, with fruit leaking out of the middle and edges too soft to hold everything together. The new book exacerbates the main weakness of Still Waters
, which suffered from an uneven balance between horror and compassion. Here the inciting crime – the discovery of two colonial-garbed, embracing, headless corpses – is depicted in grisly detail, but Quin and Morgan’s subsequent interactions stem less from burning need to bring the killer to justice than from a desire to extend the arch dialogues that run between them. Other characters arrive to complicate matters, but this often seems forced (one key character is named Alexander Pope, apparently without irony). The disconnect between believability and contrivance is never more apparent than in the way Moss depicts young police officer Rachel Naismith, employing Quin’s point of view to dwell on potential sexual tension between them. There’s little to prepare the reader for such an emphasis. Grave Doubts
, understandably, hangs its hat on Morgan and Quin, hoping that the strengths and quirks of these two characters, together and separately, will carry the momentum forward. But a baggy plot with inexplicable twists is simply too much for the novel to overcome. Moss’s previous books demonstrate he has the chops on a prose level, which is why the fruit, however soggy, is still tasty enough to eat. But a crime novel, like a pie, needs a solid structure that holds together in all the right places.
The discovery of two headless corpses dressed in colonial clothing and locked in a grisly embrace draws Detectives Miranda Quin and David Morgan of the Toronto Police Service into a Gothic mixture of sex and death that ultimately threatens their survival.
What if the difference between good and evil is only perception?
Beginning with morbid curiosity, Miranda and Morgan get caught up in a story of inspired depravity. Through revelations in such diverse locations as a Toronto demolition site, a lonely farmhouse on Georgian Bay, the crypt of a derelict church, and inside the murky depths of a shipwreck, this perverse account of love, lust, and murder builds to a horrific crescendo. Seduced by their own personal demons, Quin and Morgan might not find their considerable skills and strong bonds enough this time to help them overcome the terrors that await.
Summertime demands a really good, grisly mystery, and John Moss, in his [second] novel featuring Toronto detectives Miranda Quin and David Morgan, delivers the goods ... The plot is really solid here, but it's also fun to follow the cops along the byways of Toronto and then up to Georgian Bay. Grave Doubts is a great weekend-at-the-cottage novel.
(Margaret Cannon Globe & Mail, The
... John Moss has produced an elliptical dance of words ... a couple of hundred pages of puzzlement, suspicion, illumination and confusion that take Quin and Morgan all over the Southern map ... For those willing to suspend their disbelief from very high rafters, however, and who are intrigued by slippery depictions of shifting relationships, radical demonstrations of loyalties and disloyalties, and lots of interesting allusions and bits of ancillary information, it has a kind of hypnotic delight.
(London Free Press, The
Quin and Morgan are as quirky and dynamic duo as there is out there fighting crime, exploring life and spinning solutions to life's mysteries ... Grave Doubts. is writing that moves the mystery novel beyond the often trite label of genre fiction into crafted storytelling that delves into the energy and desperation behind actions that can both define and destroy lives.
(Don Graves Hamilton Spectator, The
Toronto detectives Miranda Quin and David Morgan sort out a tale of lust and creepy old places as they investigate two headless corpses dressed in colonial clothing.
The story, enhanced by clever dialogue and rich prose, climaxes in a dramatic underwater rescue worthy of any thriller.
(Reviewing the Evidence
Snappy dialogue, engaging characters, and a layered plot with a riveting climax combine to make this well-crafted tale a compelling read.
I must admit to a new favourite, though. How lucky we are that John Moss has turned his brilliant academic mind to writing mysteries. His Miranda Quin and David Morgan of the Toronto Police service are a different breed of detectives. Intellectual and culturally sophisticated, they wrestle with both existential problems and their feelings for each other.
(Advent book blog)