In the Shadow of the Glacier is a good, quick read. It is the first in what the author expects to be a mystery series featuring her main character, Constable Molly Smith of the Trafalgar, British Columbia Police Department.
Although the town of Trafalgar is fictitious, the general setting, an important element in the story, is not. The Kootenay Mountain region of southeastern British Columbia became a haven for draft dodgers, resisters, and deserters of the American military back in the era of the Vietnam War. Trafalgar, like many of the real towns in this part of BC, took these people in without much question, and many chose to remain and create new lives for themselves, even after the offer of a Presidential pardon. When one of the more successful of this particular group passes away, he bequeaths land and money to the town of Trafalgar to establish a garden commemorating the area's population of draft resisters. This controversial bequest is in conflict with the plans of a local developer who wishes to build a large-scale international-style resort. He worries that many Americans will find the sentiments of the garden, and perhaps therefore those of the townspeople, offensive, and that his project may not be a success. Opposing factions form; should the town remain true to its 1960's hippie roots or is it time to move on and bring in some new and bigger money? When the developer is found murdered in a back alley, questions and accusations fly. Rookie Constable Molly Smith is called into the investigation alongside Detective Sergeant John Winters, a veteran of the Vancouver Police Department.
The case picks up international attention via a Fox Network-style news reporter who arrives in Trafalgar, intent on escalating the situation. There are several sub-plots at work as well. One involves Molly's mother, a long-time activist from the 60's, who is deeply involved in the garden memorial. Another concerns Molly's friend Christa, who is stalked and subsequently assaulted, leaving Molly to feel that through her inattentiveness, she has let her friend down.
Delany handles all this material well. The writing is sharp and fast-paced, making the reader feel the stress and pressure under which the police must work to solve the crimes. The characters all have substance. The author provides background on each of the key players and we are able to form a clear picture of them and their motivations. Initially, I found that Delany dropped the names of the various characters a bit too fast and furiously and thought it difficult to follow the thread of the story. That fell into place soon enough and the plot progressed well.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book--a good debut for Ms. Delany's planned series.
by Janet Caplan
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women