With the release of Darkest Before the Dawn (2018, Ottawa Press and Publishing) the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries has reached book #7. I reviewed the previous two, A Long Ways From Home (#5) and A Tangled Web (#6) along with an author interview*. As I had “jumped in” in the middle of the series and I had enjoyed both books so much, I was eager to see what #7 brought to the series. RCMP officer Sgt. Winston Windflower is the creation of Newfoundland native Mike Martin, who currently lives in Ottawa. The series is set in the fictional town of Grand Bank, Newfoundland.
The Murder Capital of Canada?
I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I say that Winston and Sheila now have a baby girl, Amelia Louise. Sheila is the mayor of Grand Bank but is on maternity leave. A body of a loner, Jacob Crowder is discovered in his home, stabbed to death. Soon another body turns up, this time one shot to death in a van in a deserted area. RCMP Inspector Ron Quigley quips to Windflower: “When did Grand Bank become the murder capital of Canada?” Which is amusing, because each book has had at least one murder, so the Inspector shouldn’t be surprised by anything that goes in the sleepy hamlet by this time. While trying to determine if the murders are related, life goes on for the RCMP and for the Windflowers. Before writing this review, I did something I had never done before and that is to read another reviewer’s thoughts. To be honest, I didn’t find Before the Dawn as good a read as the two previous installments in the series. Mainly due to the fact that easily half of the book is taken up by scenes of the Windflower’s domestic bliss with their new daughter. Winston is, of course, the perfect father, including (but not limited to) changing Amelia’s diapers, bathing her and getting up in the middle of the night to attend to her needs. There is lots of cooking and dog-walking of Lady to be done, which Winston always happily has time for. Reviewer (and genuine bay-boy) Harold N. Walters at The Packet said of Darkest Before the Dawn:
To tell the truth, I was beat to a snot trying to keep up with Windflower and Lady on their frequent walks — up the trail, down the path, along the beach.
Diapers, walking the dog, and cooking. (Listen, I’m not even going to mention a stray cat that’s pussy-footing its way into Windflower’s family.)
At the end of Chapter 19, Windflower is seated at the supper table “lost in food heaven.” A little farther along, as part of preparing to cook, Windflower “put on a hairnet and apron.”
As well as striving to solve two murders and sort out the particulars of a possible suicide, Windflower manages — with Shelia’s help — to set wheels in motion to find some way of improving the quality of mental health care in Grand Bank.
Windflower is up-to-his-arse busy. So busy, in fact, that he engages his often-inebriated Uncle Frank (Yes, Uncle Frank is back from the Canadian West) to stake out a crime scene under the spot-check supervision of otherwise occupied Mounties.
During his frenetic investigation of two murders, money laundering, and “cryptocurrency” shenanigans on the Dark Web — oh, get this, there are rumours of a ghost prowling in the fog — Windflower squeezes out a few minutes to get down on the beach for capelin scull.
You can read the entire humorous review here: https://www.thepacket.ca/living/book-remarks-darkest-before-the-dawn-261810/
Still, when it comes to writing about police work, Mr. Martin excels, particularly at demonstrating Windflower’s keen skills when he interrogates the murder suspects in addition to handling the various day-to-day duties of running the Grand Bank RCMP detachment. Not a few times during my reading of Darkest Before the Dawn did I yearn for a little more “cops & robbers” and a little less “quality family time.”
A Mix of Old and New
Nevertheless, All the old RCMP gang are here (Eddie Tizzard, Carrie Evanchuk, Betsy Molloy), newer ones (like Constables Yvette Jones and Rick Smithson) as well as Doctor Sanjay and the Stoodleys. The Mug-Up coffee shop is as busy as ever. If you have never read any of the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries, then Darkest Before the Dawn may not be the ideal installment of the series to start with. The obvious best place to start, is of course, in the beginning with The Walker on the Cape, and I recommend you do so. Mrs. Miramichi Reader loves the series (she has started at the beginning) and that’s a pretty good recommendation if there ever was one!
Darkest Before the Dawn by Mike Martin
Ottawa Press and Publishing
*I see most of the series are available at either Chapters-Indigo or at Amazon.ca, in both print and Kindle editions. The Kindles are all under $4.00, which makes them the best option, in my opinion. Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2U3qLF5 Thanks!
James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.