In addition to being a gifted poet and a practicing psychiatrist, Des Rosiers is a courageous and open-minded gentleman for whom I have great respect. This, as we all know, has nothing much to do with literary merit, most of the time. I mention it because it gives me even more reason to rejoice that Quebec has chosen to celebrate Joël des Rosiers and his work with its highest literary honour.
"I like to hunt down murderers and put them away." -- Luc Vanier and the Vigilantes, by Pamela Davison
Author Peter Kirby [Photo: Linda Leith]
In a Montreal ever mired in crooked cops, diplomatic gangsters, and enterprising politicians, Inspector Luc Vanier is back, only this time it is he and ‘straightest of straight arrows’ partner Saint-Jacques who may find themselves permanently on the wrong side of the law. Facing suspensions amid dubious accusations of police brutality, to clear their names Vanier must venture deep into the morally labyrinthine underbelly of municipal corruption without himself becoming compromised.
The second installment in Kirby’s Luc Vanier series touches on themes familiar to readers of the first novel, The Dead of Winter. With everyone from Hell’s Angels denizens to the local priest reminding Vanier that it is sometimes only a fine political distinction between the law’s criminal and a community’s hero, Kirby demonstrates the troubling mutability of justice which makes it as difficult for readers as it is for Inspector Vanier to pin down the bad guys.
The story, as the title suggests, is peppered with vigilante agents attempting to define and operate justice under circumstances of corruption. While some vigilantes are sympathetic in their plight (such as the mysterious employment agent Mr. Desportes) and others less so, it is ultimately Vanier’s unflinching and lone enthusiasm for justice as it is maintained under the legal system which solidifies the morality of the inspector, even as this time around he finds himself keeping company with, and sometimes benefiting by, the actions of less than savory characters. As Vanier maintains, “I like to hunt down murderers and put them away. Don’t care who they killed, or why. I just like to lock them away.”
This instalment also offers a sustained look into Vanier’s personal life, including the steamy and stormy ends of his relationship with Dr. Segal and the challenges of life with his son Alex, back from Afghanistan. These episodes go far in advancing the dimensions of Vanier’s character and enrich the larger action of the story. Kirby also serves up an interesting female lead in light of the testosterone-fuelled Montreal underworld – a welcome development against the meaty, blockheaded, and usually male background of crime fiction.
Copyright © 2013, Pamela Davison
Pamela Davison is an undergraduate student at Concordia University, pursuing a double major in English and Political Science. She was born on the prairie and has travelled widely across Canada, but feels most at home in Montreal. Her love of books and writing was deeply ingrained by her mother (a journalist) who wouldn't let her daughter watch PG 13 movies but let her read anything she wanted.