SAP: A Mystery

by John Swan
ISBN: 1894663543

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A Review of: Sap: A Mystery
by Des McNally

Let's be honest from the start, Author (and protagonist) John Swan's latest mystery Sap is not an elegant book. Nor is it written with much finesse.
In my opinion, Swan's second foray into the mystery genre (his first effort, The Rouge Murders, was well received), will appeal to a relatively small market, for despite what I think is an attempt by Swan to write something akin to the very popular Mickey Spillane novels, Sap doesn't succeed because there's little if anything that is attractive about its protagonist.
While the back cover speaks of the novel being "very funny" the reader must understand that this is not George Burns type of humour; it's hard-edged, tungsten coated stuff that will be welcomed only by the most serious devotees of the style as they trace Swan's descent into, and adventures in, the demi-monde of East Toronto.
Swan, widower, alcoholic and unhygienic private detective, first greets us in his Hamilton apartment in the company of the requisite wise-cracking "Blonde Bombshell" Meg Maloney. For some reason (that isn't made clear to us), the couple takes us to the underbelly of Toronto where we are introduced to drug users, drug dealers, murderers, tarts and rogue police-and this is to mention only the more civic minded members of the community we encounter in Swan's nether-world.
It may be an overstatement to suggest that Swan must have had beside him a glossary of obscenities and depraved acts as he wrote the book. This narrative is replete with them. In addition, the partnership of Swan and Maloney is an extremely odd one. Sex is constantly in the air but consummation never occurs as the distaff member of the duo vetoes it. However, Meg seems to be seriously aroused by violence and spends considerable effort persuading Swan to fight any available body, so there's no shortage of beatings and blood.
While this certainly isn't your consummate "feel good" offering, there is still an element of the author's style that nudges you to continue reading, if only to reach the conclusion of the tale and discover how the author's plot actually plays out!
Despite feeling a little dispirited, drained, and not a little confused after putting this book down, I still believe it would be interesting to see Swan, (the author) give Swan (the detective) at least a few redeeming qualities, and tackle a project more subtle and plot driven. And while it's safe to write about places you know, the less references made to local politicians, places and events, the better. Puzzle your readers with plot and not local issues.

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