True Detective

by Byron Rempel,
ISBN: 096978046X

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First Novels - The New Kid
by Eva Tihanyi

On a lighter note, there's True Detective (Great Plains, 206 pages, $19.95 paper), by Byron Rempel, an off-beat detective novel in which the hero's sensibility is far more interesting than the case he sets out to solve. Roger Bushman, twenty-five and "recently escaped from prairie purgatory" to Montreal's alternative scene with its plethora of "Escapegoats" (i.e. "the displaced, unsatisfied, hungry, lustful and puzzled youth of the rest of Canada"), decides to enroll in a private detective correspondence course. Since he wants to put off getting a "real" job for as long as possible, he finds the brochure promises enticing: as a private detective, he will "have fun, meet interesting people, and have enough money not to worry about anything."

Before he even begins his course, however, he stumbles upon his first case. Mathilde, a tempestuous, unpredictable Québécoise beauty, hires him to transport a controversial painting to New York. The plot-what there is of it-is really inconsequential, an excuse for Rempel to comment on the twenty-something crowd with the assurance of someone who's been there, done that, and can now recollect in tranquillity. (Rempel is thirty-five.)

As Bushman's friend Reefer Jones observes: "Conclusions are rare. Life isn't about endings, or even beginnings. It's about middles. .and we just can't deal with the fact that life is one big middle.." Rempel writes about this "middle" with energy and candour. And, by making Roger a character who, despite his devil-may-care persona, actually thinks, he creates a portrait of a Gen X-er that transcends caricature. After all, who can resist a character who can focus his attention for an entire page on the hollow at the base of the neck, "where water collects if you're lying on your back in the rain"?


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