The Black Ace: A Brad Shade Thriller Paperback – Mar 12 2013
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Praise for The Code:
“One of this continent’s master craftsmen of sporting prose”…as fine a writer as can be found in any field.”
“This thriller has enough juice to satisfy those who’ve never been to a rink.”
“[Joyce’s] knowledgeable, engagingly cynical perspective on hockey should prove compelling even for those readers with no interest in the sport.”
"Part CSI, part L.A. Law, part Hockey Night in Canada—Gare Joyce deserves a championship ring for his uncanny portrayal of Brad Shade, the earthy, educated hockey scout sleuth. This is sports writing, crime writing, and just plain writing as good as it gets." —Roy MacGregor
"The Code is surely one of the great 'insider' fictions of the professional hockey world. Funny and full of dirty fights both on and off the ice, it delivers an astringent look into big league machinations and the human costs of playing the game."
—Andrew Pyper, author of The Guardians
“For an amateur-detective story to work, the main character, the non-cop investigator, has to be well-drawn and engaging. Shade is both, and it's his clever rapscallion personality that propels the story.” —Winnipeg Free Press
About the Author
G.B. Joyce is a feature writer and editor with Sportsnet magazine. He has written for ESPN the Magazine, The Globe and Mail, and the Ottawa Citizen, and has won four National Magazine Awards. Joyce is the author of eight books.
Top Customer Reviews
The author has an exceptionally witty and fast paced writing style. The plot was good. The characters were likeable. The only thing I didn't like about it was that it made Swift Current, which in my experience is a fine city, look like a cesspool both physically and population-wise.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Brad Shade's lacing up, at the Swift Current Dome
First off, this is going to remind no one of either Dashiell Hammett or Elmore Leonard. I expect that kind of random boasting from the publisher, but this comparison on the front cover was from a newspaper reviewer. If you like comparisons, the book starts out slow and you're thinking maybe Robert Parker trying his hand at a Myron Bolitar mystery/thriller. But you soon realize that's a little off, the wisecracks aren't said aloud, and are bitter rather than defiant, always directed as much at the protagonist as anything else. They story-telling is off-kilter as well, lacking the conventional linear drive. When the author kicks it up about a quarter of the way through, you might get excited and think this is the next Ross Macdonald. But soon after you realize the twisted tale is just getting started and Gare Joyce is skating his own way to produce a great mystery novel, one of the best I have read in years.
The Black Ace blends two outstanding elements. First is the miswired protagonist. He feels shame when he should feel guilt, guilt when he should feel pride and pride when he should feel shame. He is bitter toward everything he needs, and acts as if that combination somehow adds up to love. But it all makes sense. You don't like him or dislike him, he just seems real. The victim in the story is his antithesis, and the resulting synthesis results in a tremendously satisfying story.
The second outstanding element is the author's masterful and original style. At first the book seems overwritten, with two lines of embellishment for every straightforward line of plot or dialog. It mixes first-person and third-person voice. They are mixed, not just alternated, sometimes the protagonist makes reference to things we know about from the omniscient narrator, things the protagonist shouldn't know. At other times he fails to tell us important details that he does know, important enough that leaving them out is deceptive. The most spectacular chapters in the book, the ones that blow the reader away, are in a kind of anonymous-person voice. The book has the most natural and effective use of ambiguous person description since Lawrence Sanders. It merges introspection, action, dialog, flashback and foreshadowing in complex, multi-layered accounts, like building a myth out of the most seedy and vulgar ingredients.
There are a lot of flaws in the book, but they just don't matter. The plot was bought at knock-down auction from the second season of Veronica Mars after that show was cancelled. Too much of it is explained by a guy who guarded the secrets rigorously at great cost for decades, then opens up for no particular reason to a stranger. The book is filled with loose ends (the suicide car is playing both the radio and the cassette deck at the same time, a biker has a limp prominently mentioned twice but never explained, and so on) while other ends are tied off implausibly in one-off explanations unrelated to the plot. The Native American sidekick is far too passive and indirect, and his mild psychic abilities are a clichéd distraction. The book spends a lot of effort at setting scenes, but once set, the background is forgotten. The biggest example is constant references to cold, wind and personal physical discomfort; but the author never makes it feel real. There is a superficial description, but no depth or detail to make it more than just words. The final resolution is neither satisfying nor effectively unsatisfying, just meh. But, as I said, the glorious writing and arresting protagonist hurdle over such minor quibbles like Bobby Orr winning scoring titles playing the blue line.
I recommend this book most highly. I have not read the first book in the series, nor any of the author's other books, but I'm going to get started right away.
The story may sound like it's about a murder, but it's really about Brad Shade growing up, discovering life is messy and personal and might be better traveled with a few friends.
Might be. He's not sure of that.
What makes this story exceptional is the author's voice--Brad Shade's voice. He's drenched in ice hockey. That's what he did for thirty+ years and he can't let got even as he knows he's too old and it hasn't given him a particularly good life anyway. There is lots of ice hockey language, phrasing, allusions. I spent the first thirty pages lost. I'm not sure why I kept reading, but I did, and GB Joyce let up enough that I understand Slade sufficiently to want to follow his journey of 350+ pages. Here's a particularly illuminating passage:
"I wanted to say that only the mentally ill commit suicide and mental illness isn't something that's there for explaining. Not by family and friends. Not by scientists who can confidently explain most things. Not by men of the cloth who can doubtlessly explain everything. Not by a mope like me who struggles to explain anything. If I had known her better or if she had been a total stranger, I would have managed to spit that out.
This homespun, dark wisdom, distilled from a life lived hard, kept me reading.
Overall, a good read, probably better if you love ice hockey. I'm not sure I'll read the rest of the Brad Shade series, but I don't feel like I wasted my time meeting him.
I enjoyed some of the characters, most notably "Chief". Sadly, the dead man, The Black Ace of the title was far more interesting than our protagonist! Still, he was refreshingly unlike many of the main characters in the mysteries that I kept on reading until the end, and even enjoyed the trip!
I'm no prude, but the sex scenes seems thrown in there for shock effect, and didn't really advance the plot. I think they could and should have been cut because they didn't add to the action, nor did they really tell me anything about the character I didn't already know (or guess). To me, they were little better than a small almost pornographic throw away scene like is common in male adventure flicks and, quite frankly, detracted from the book for me. If I want to read pornographic material, I'll go get a romance novel! (Just kidding). The scenes seemed to be thrown in there to make you see Brad as an "anti-hero" but all they did for me was leave me wondering what any woman would see in him. He must be either spectacularly good looking to warrant such attention, or maybe the women who cross is path are just desperate?
In short, I enjoyed the book, and I'll try the series again. But, the plot seemed contrived, the sex scenes were unneeded and detracted from the book, and the most interesting character died in the first chapter. I'lll give the series another try, but I have mixed feelings about this first exposure.
The best character is the murder victim who is found dead in the first few pages. Unfortunately, he does not say much. Brad Shade is a character I just could not figure out. On the one hand he tries to be the hard-oiled P.I. On the other, he philosophizes unmercifully. He doesn't want to be a womanizer, but beds 'em easily. This is in the first person and Brad drones.
My biggest criticism of the book - which I enjoyed for more than the first half - is that it really dragged towards the end. It came to a resounding halt with about thirty pages to go. Then, of course, it wrapped up in two with a fairly unsatisfying ending.
There are great mystery writers out there. Too many good ones to spend time on this mediocre one.