THE SUBTITLE, Con Men, Rogues and Scoundrels from Nova Scotia's Past, is apt, but doesn't quite do Crime Wave (Pottersfield, 160 pages, $14.95 paper) justice. Dean Jobb's book is a collection of stories - most of which previously appeared as newspaper articles - that chronicles the infamous characters of the province's past, and does a fine job of bringing these personalities and their escapades to life.
There's Henry More Smith, who had the stickiest fingers in history, and became equally adept at stealing everything in sight and then slipping out of jails after being caught. And there's Samuel Herbert Dougall, who had a mysterious way of losing wives to tragic circumstances.
On that level, Crime Wave succeeds in blowing dust off the yellowing headlines left behind by these characters. The Max Haines style of treatment suits these stories perfectly; Jobb has a deft way of telling them without complicating matters, and he allows their grim humour to filter through without trivializing the very real crimes behind the stories.
But Crime Wave is at its best when it serves as a mini history text. Though every Student learns about the Halifax Explosion of 1917, not everyone is aware of the tale told here: the tangled legal aftermath of the devastation, when frustrated authorities and bloodthirsty newspaper reporters tried desperately to assign blame for the accident that caused it.
Crime Wave is an easy read, but it also has enough substance to stick with you long after you've finished it. It's the perfect chapter-at-a-sitting book when you don't have the time or temperament for something longer.