________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 7. . . .October 16, 2009


Homicide Related. (A Ryan Dooley Mystery).

Norah McClintock.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2009.
354 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-431-1.

Subject Heading:
Mystery and detective stories.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Darleen Golke.

**** /4



Dooley hated having to wait. He also hated not knowing which was too bad because he was faced with a whole lot of both. He hated having to wait to see Beth and not knowing what was going on, what she was thinking, if she was even thinking about him at all. He hated having to wait to find out where the cops were going with their investigation into Lorraine's death and not knowing what they talked to his uncle about and why they had asked Jerry Panelli those "weird shit" questions. He hated not know what those weird shit questions were. He hated having to wait for his uncle to spit out whatever he seemed to be choking on and not knowing why he was acting the way he was, or even whether the way he was acting was in character or not because, when you came right down to it, he didn't know his uncle all that well. He'd only met him for the first time two years ago, and what had come after that were once a week, sometimes once-every-two-weeks, visits, which really didn't tell him anything except what his uncle was like when he was doing his hard-assed, retired cop routine, visiting his newly discovered nephew what was up shit creek. Then came the past six months living in his uncle's house. Maybe those six months should have told him something, but, then again, maybe not. After all, his uncle had living nearly three times longer than Dooley before Dooley had even made his acquaintance, and that made it hard to Dooley to tell if the way he had been the past six months was the way he always was or just the way he was now that Dooley was around. Finally and, okay, it was a minor problem, all things considered—he hated having to wait for Jeffie to pay him back and not knowing whether he's been stiffed or not...


Introduced in 2008's Dooley Takes the Fall, Ryan Dooley, who prefers being called Dooley, returns to allow readers another glimpse into his daily life. After completing a sentence for burglary, Dooley currently lives with his "upright, uptight" Mr. Law- and-Order uncle whom he met for the first time early in his incarceration, who kept coming back to visit, and who assumed responsibility for Dooley upon his release. Dooley struggles to stay on the straight and narrow path to meet the conditions "put on him when he was released," conditions that include "holding down a job, staying away from drugs, alcohol, weapons, and baseball bats, and attending regular counselling," but "going to school was the hardest to comply with." Dooley considers living with his uncle "like living with a cantankerous semi-senile old granny instead of a supposedly on-the-ball uncle." Recently, something has disrupted his uncle's usual routines and up-front attitudes, but Dooley knows discussion about problems just will not happen with this man Dooley has come to respect in the last two-and-a-half years. The one bright spot in his life is his relationship with Beth, his girlfriend whom he met in Dooley Takes the Fall, although challenges lurk there as well.

     Dooley's past inevitably intrudes upon his present. Lorraine, Dooley's troubled single mother whom he has not seen for more than two years, shows up at school one day, asks him to come see her, and when he ignores her, shoves a note with her address into his pocket. Her lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and men during his growing up years trumped any parenting skills she possessed and prompted him to leave home at age 15 and fall into criminal activity. When police find her dead of an alleged overdose a couple of days later, neither Dooley nor his uncle is surprised; however, police soon rule her death a homicide. Jeffie, a friend from Dooley's wild days, asks for a temporary loan, but unfortunately he turns up murdered a week later, debt unpaid. This pair of deaths catapults Dooley into the world of police and interviews. Ironically, his ex-cop uncle falls under suspicion and is arrested when detectives uncover complex family connections and dynamics that are news to Dooley. Confused but reluctant to accept his that his uncle might be guilty, Dooley resolves to investigate, succeeds in putting together random clues, links the two deaths, identifies the perpetrator, and extracts a confession, and, in the process, develops insights into his own family background and troubled history.

      McClintock, five-time winner of the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award, demonstrates her skill at creating complex, multi-layered plots that capture and engage readers of all ages, although she aims this mystery at older teens. Described by his uncle's girlfriend as a "responsible young man who's caught a lot of bad breaks but who is working very hard to put all that behind him," Dooley, despite the strikes against him, emerges as a young man committed to overcoming his past mistakes and succeeding. Flawed but determined, he refuses to allow the time and effort he has invested in his self-rehabilitation to fall victim to difficult circumstances. Covering a two week time frame, the plot unfolds at a steady pace with McClintock carefully inserting details throughout the action that foreshadow events and unveil secrets, a recurring motif. The evolving, sometimes acrimonious, relationship between Dooley and his uncle forms one of the stronger elements of the novel. A compelling and complex plot, an intelligent and engaging protagonist, a cast of familiar and new secondary characters, well-paced prose, and vivid, albeit sometimes graphic dialogue combine to hold reader's attention to the conclusion.

      Neither the title nor the cover of Homicide Related is particularly appealing; however, fans will overlook that shortcoming, enjoy Dooley's adventures, and eagerly await the next episode in the planned trilogy.

Highly Recommended.

Darleen Golke, a retired teacher-librarian, writes from her home in Abbotsford, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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