The Rouge Mysteries
(Jasper Press, 182 pages, $14.95 paper), by John Swan, the pseudonym for the Hamilton writer Kerry J. Schooley, also falls into the "hard-boiled" school of detective fiction. However, it lacks the unity of The Dark Embrace
, and is more a collection of tales than a satisfying novel.
John Swan-the protagonist as well as the author's pseudonym-is gruff, sarcastic, rough around the edges, with a trace of vulnerability well-hidden under a thick skin. A former cop in the Hamilton area, he is not liked or respected by his ex-colleagues. He is regarded as a "smart-ass", not without good reason. Here is his response, for example, to a suicide attempt: "Maybe if I'd hung in there long enough I could have prevented it. But I didn't give a shit."
Yet there are two sides to Swan: the surly, overweight, unkempt, heavy-drinking big-mouth and the depressed widower whose daughter has severed ties with him and who wants very much to reconnect with her.
The five "cases" in the book, though loosely linked in plot, are held together by the character of Swan, and ultimately it is not the story-lines but his personality that sustains the reader's interest. Stripped of his superficial belligerence, he's a lonely man looking for something to help him once again like his life.