- Mass Market Paperback: 291 pages
- Publisher: McArthur & Co (Jan. 26 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1552785602
- ISBN-13: 978-1552785607
- Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 2.4 x 17.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 249 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,679,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Red Mass Mass Market Paperback – Jan 26 2006
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About the Author
Rosemary Aubert is the author of the Ellis Portal mysteries, FREE REIGN, THE FEAST OF STEPHEN (Winner of the Arthur Ellis Award), THE FERRYMAN WILL BE THERE, LEAVE ME BY DYING, and RED MASS. Rosemary is also a writing teacher and lecturer and is a retired judge's deputy from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Aubert, Rosemary, 5th in series
Bridge Works, 2005, US Trade Paperback - ISBN: 1882593952
First Sentence: At Michaelmas in the autumn of the year, Canadian judges in black silk robes, red woolen sashes and starched white-linen collar tabs gather like red-winged blackbirds to celebrate the Red Mass.
Ellis Portal is clean, sober, reinstated as an attorney and getting his life back on track. While attending the Red Mass, a church service celebrating the opening of the courts, Ellis' one-time close friend, john Stoughton-Melville, Stow," is removed from the church in handcuffs. Stow is accused of murdering his fatally ill wife five yours ago and has asked Ellis to defend him but offers no information as to what happened. Ellis' had loved Stow's wife and only because of an old promise does he agree to take the case.
Aubert is one of the many under-recognized authors and her Ellis Portel series is a great one. The only problem I had with this book is that it is, apparently, the end of the series. Ellis Portal is a great character and part of the attraction to him is his foibles; that he is not perfect and not always likable. The other people in his life are those from when he was a successful judge, his life on the street and his continuing association with the people from that time in his life and those now that he is rebuilding his life.
The plot is wonderfully twisty and you feel Ellis' frustration has he is trying to defend Stow with the end being a surprise.
I did have a feeling the author intended there to be another book in this series but, due to a change in publishers, had to switch characters. I understand this from the author's perspective but it's a bummer for the reader. Still, I definitely recommend this book and, as usual, suggest reading the series from the beginning.
My major complaint with this book is that its protagonist survives. He really is a waste of space, and boring with it.
Her protagonist (certainly not her hero) is Ellis Portal, a hot-shot lawyer who became a judge. While on the bench, he took up drink and drugs, losing self-respect, judgeship, profession and wife on his way to a hard landing as a street person. After hitting bottom, he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps to regain his standing at the bar (so to speak.) As this fifth novel begins, he is being seriously considered for re-appointment as a judge, even as he prepares the defense in an unusually high-profile murder case. Oh, yeah.
As a resident of Western Canada, I find it particularly fascinating to see how Aubert has infused her book with Torontonian spirit. First, her prose has a wonderfully curdled pomposity about it. In the following scene, Lawyer Portal is having lunch with his much younger junior partner:
"Nicky and I, our differences temporarily quelled, sat in the Barristers' Dining Room at Osgood Hall eating a let's be-friends-again lunch. It was Friday, casual day, which meant that the trio playing for the fifty or so gathered attorneys was a jazz group rather than chamber music, the featured dish was sole instead of beef, and that the dress was blazers and slacks instead of suits.
"Nicky took a deep swallow of his Chardonnay before he deigned to speak. `Ellis, you know, I trust, that the Crown's case is flawed.'
"`Flawed?' Nicky was irritating me again, even before desert." [Page 144 of the paperback edition.]
Even before desert! Ah, yes.
Then Aubert cuts deeply to the heart of profound emotions in a way that only be called uniquely Canadian. Here, Portal hears an announcement:
"`There's no easy way to tell you this. I know you're not a man who goes to church often-`
"`I seem to have repented,' I joked, remembering the Red Mass, the christening...
"She didn't smile. `Ellis, those DNA tests for Sal?'
"`The sample from Jeffrey showed my DNA, but not yours.'
"With that absurdly brief sentence, my ex-wife informed me that Jeffrey was not my son." [Page 284.]
Portal, himself, is a memorable piece of characterization. I could not hope to better the description of him offered by Publishers Weekly in their review of the third book in the series : "Bland, whiny and self-absorbed". Absolutely--and how very Canadian. In addition to that, This Portal, this hired gun defense lawyer is passive, unmotivated, often incurious and always browbeaten by his client. There'll by no Clarence Darrow/Perry Mason monkeyshines on this side of the 49th Parallel, thank you very much.
Finally, there is the plot, itself. When the final revelations are made, it turns out that the whole thing was built around the most improbable, self-destructive, hare-brained scheme since ... well, since the decision to invade a certain Middle Eastern country much in the news these days.
Two stars--and the beavers weep.