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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The K Handshape

Reviewed: May 12, 2010
By: Maureen Jennings
Publisher: The Dundurn Group
353 pages, $22.99

The rather odd title of this book doesn’t make a lot of sense until you realize that some of the major players in this mystery are deaf. The murder victim herself is a rather militant deaf person whose outspoken lifestyle choices provide several possible motive for her murder. The K handshape is a chopping motion made with the hand which means “kill”.

Our viewpoint character is Christine Morris, a forensic profiler with the Ontario Provincial Police, based in Orillia. This is her second outing and there are some plot points that obviously carry over from the first book, which I have not seen.

As this story begins she is awakened in the middle of the night by one of her colleagues a difficult man named Dr. Leo Forgach. His daughter, Deidre, is missing and he has, for reasons Christine can’t quite fathom, turned to her for assistance. They find Deirdre floating in Lake Couchiching in the sixth paragraph of the book, and it by the third page it is clear that she was strangled before she was dumped in the lake.

The mystery is complicated by many things. Forgach has awkward relationships with just about everyone in his family. His ex-wife and his son are essentially estranged from him and the son has only recently reconnected with the daughter, under circumstances that seem quite suspicious.

Deidre was at least as difficult as her father in life, going so far in her militant deafness as to make sure that her child was born with all the genetic factors that would leave her deaf too. The cold-blooded nature of the relationship she had with the little girl’s father makes him an automatic suspect as well, and the case is complicated by his desire to take custody of his child after Deirdre’s death.

Mysteries these days generally have ongoing story arcs that intersect only slightly with the mystery itself. In this book Christine has to deal with a friend’s serious illness, that situation compounded by the infidelity of that friend’s husband. In addition Christine has a long distance romance with a Scottish detective she met during her first adventure (Does Your Mother Know?) to cope with as well as a tempestuous long distance relationship with her manipulating mother.

This book was nominated for the the Crime writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for 2009 .

Jennings is also the author of the Murdoch Mysteries, a series of historical mysteries set in 19th century Toronto and adapted for television on CITYtv.

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