By Liz Brady

Published by Second Story Press, Toronto, Canada

Reviewed By Therese Greenwood

Sudden Blow is the type of book Canadian publishers assume won't sell to an American audience because it's, well, too Canadian. Set in the nation's tightly knit financial center of Toronto, the book has a sharp Canadian flavour (note the "u"). A conventionalist character is "tighter than Preston Manning's butt," referring to the relentlessly stuffy Leader of the nation's official opposition party. Convicted criminals "go to Kingston," an Ontario city that is home to the country's oldest and most notorious prisons. But readers get the point, if not all the nuances.

In fact, the Canadian flavour of this book helps flesh out the characters. Both the left-thinking journalist Jane Yeats and the Bay Street baron (American readers can substitute "Wall Street tycoon") Charles Durand are not uncommon figures in a country where the governing party is officially called Liberal, universal health care is a sacred cow, and big banks are turning record-smashing profits.

The resolution of the plot -- which turns on murder, money and mobsters -- is not difficult to guess, but the story itself is engaging and owes a lot to the well-written main character. In mourning for her dead lover and driven by her sense of life's injustices, Jane Yeats is a tough-as-nails yet vulnerable heroine, engaged with her landscape while at the same time alienated from it, in the tradition of such emotionally contradictory sleuths as Kinsey Millhone and Anna Pidgeon. In addition to the Harley-riding Jane, the book provides plenty of other strong women characters, including the country-music-crazy Etta, and the talented native artist Silver.

With such well-defined characters, a quick-paced plot and tight writing, Sudden Blow fits nicely into the genre of contemporary urban female detective crime fiction, whether or not Canada happens to be the reader's home and native land.

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