It was a time of political and social unrest. Riots and demonstrations. Bombs and machine guns. Violence and fear. Troops patrolled the streets, and helicopters filled the air, searchlights slashing the night skies. It was Montreal in 1970.
I was there.
So was the author. But McFetridge doesn’t dwell on the politics. Like the hero of this fast-moving procedural, young Montreal constable Eddie Dougherty doesn’t have the time.
Eddie, who grew up in the predominantly Irish, working-class neighborhood of Point St. Charles, is working out of Station 10. He’s “practically still a rookie,” and although perfectly bilingual, his mostly French-speaking colleagues instantly tag him as an Anglo, and have trouble pronouncing his name. “Doe-er-dee,” he patiently explains.
It starts with a wide-eyed Eddie standing guard over a mysterious package on the Victoria Bridge that links the island of Montreal with the suburbs, watching the bomb squad take care of business. They do—by nonchalantly chucking it into the St. Lawrence below.
It’s a fine opening, a black, what-the-hell shrug that sets the tone. Eddie is soon chasing after bombs all over town: from the stately manors of Westmount to the Champlain Bridge; from the Montreal Stock Exchange to McGill University.
But it’s when he’s dispatched to aid French-speaking Detective Carpentier, who’s having trouble in Eddie’s old stomping grounds, that things really explode. The body of a local girl has been found, and Eddie notes similarities with another case. Impressed with the rookie’s recall—and his familiarity with the neighborhood—Carpentier has Eddie transferred, temporarily, to assist him on the investigation.
But there are plenty more bombs to go off, both literally and figuratively. There are a couple of high-profile kidnappings by the FLQ, a small band of terrorists out to “liberate” Quebec. Task forces are appointed, but the police are already stretched too thin. Politicians and pundits scream at each other. The Canadian army is called in. And through it all, Eddie and the homicide squad search for what looks like a serial killer.
McFetridge gets it all right, from the hysteria to the history, the pop culture shout-outs to the grim rhetoric of the times. It’s a taut, tight police procedural; tough and hard, but full of heart. It’s almost like going home….