Mortal Sins

by Anna Porter
271 pages,
ISBN: 0772516707

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Whoever prepared the book jacket blurb has had the daring (or the temerity) to link Porter's name with those of the current great English ladies of crime, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. It's an obvious sales ploy. A first reading indicates that there may be a case for it - and what novel of this genre deserves, or gets, more than a first reading? Yet niggling doubts creep in. Upon reflection, the characters and plot elements may seem not to fall into place quite as easily as they should. They may seem to have had some little pushes. An example of what I mean is provided by some odd facets of an odd personal co-operation between Detective Inspector David Parr of the Toronto police and a colleague in the New York City Police. It seems likely that bureaucratic tangles would flourish in such a situation, but Porter papers over the difficulties with what I can only call visible skill.
At worst, this is praising with faint damns. The author provides a striking central figure in the drama: a Toronto industrialist and financial tycoon named Paul Zimmerman; an engaging amateur sleuth in the person of Judith Hayes, a middle-aging freelance journalist who has some kind of thing going with David; lots of clues; and a number of perfectly plausible suspects. Intriguingly, the central murder (there are two others) is not demonstrated to have been a murder until near the end of the book.
Porter displays excellent grasp of her craft while moving the action, in place, from Toronto to New York to Bermuda to Paris to Hungary, and, in time, between the Holocaust and the present.
For the most part, the writing and editing are good, although she does report that "Brenda sunk (sic) into gloomy silence"; and regrettably, author and editors succumb to the prevailing and spreading confusion between "persuade" and "convince." (Although I am convinced that this is now a losing cause, I cannot persuade myself to stop whining about it.)
If the critical accolade for a mystery story is to say "I couldn't put it down," Moral Sins doesn't quite make it; but it is easy to pick up, and it's entertaining.

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