You know how, in a certain type of (often-British) mystery, your protagonist has some big, self-destructive flaw? He drinks too much, he has intimacy issues, he’s all hung up over his lost love or he’s Sherlock Holmes and shoots heroin? It’s sort of grittily romantic, if you have that thing where you sometimes imagine taking people home, feeding them soup and kindly sorting out their lives?
Yeah. So Wayne Arthurson has raised the bar on this particular literary convention. The sport isn’t even high jump anymore… he’s taken it into the realm of pole vaulting.
In Fall from Grace we meet Leo Desroches, a guy so spectacularly screwed up he makes Cracker seem cuddly and functional.
Leo’s a journalist and a full-time mess on legs. He’s been in jail, he’s been homeless, and even though he currently has a job, it’s in Edmonton. (Okay, Edmonton, sorry for the swipe. Where was I? Ohhh… balmy balmy Vancouver.) He has a regular gig at a local paper and a place to live, but he’s also a howling black hole of gambling addiction and bad choices, and he’s found a devilishly inventive and thoroughly shocking way to keep himself out of the casinos.
When he is first on scene at a murder, Leo gets a chance to put his career back on track. And since there are two Leos–the Gambler, and the earnest guy who wants to put his life together and maybe even reboot a relationship with his kids–he makes the most of it, turning one anonymous murder victim into front page news. As he digs deeper, of course, it turns out that poor Ruby Cardinal is hardly the first strangled sex-trade worker of Aboriginal descent to turn up in an area wheat field. The police are officially unaware of the trend, but they’re also more than a little sensitive about the suggestion that there may be a serial killer in the city.
Which is great for Leo, because what self-destructive person wouldn’t want to antagonize the hometown police?
Leo’s investigation brings him all the danger his self-loathing side could hope for and then some. Because Fall from Grace doesn’t pretend to be gritty–it embodies grit. It’s rough-edged and scary, a fascinating crime novel about a guy who can’t quite surrender to his own darkness, even as he continually, compulsively sets himself up to lose every single thing he’s got.