where there’s smoke
Smoked, by Garry Ryan; Published by NeWest Press; Available in Paperback (2010)
Smoked is the fourth of Garry Ryan’s Detective Lane mysteries, about a gay Calgary police detective. At the core of the novel is the search for the killer of a young woman whose body is found in a dumpster. The only lead is a very particular graffiti ‘tag’ on the dumpster. Running parallel is the unfolding saga of Lane’s family life, as he and his long-term partner Arthur continue to care for two troubled teenagers abandoned by their own families.
Both sides of the story focus ultimately on family. Fittingly for a gay mystery, the power of chosen and diverse families is very much on display here: the almost brotherly bond between Lane and co-detective Harper, and the patchwork clan assembled by Lane and Arthur, emerge as crusaders and shelters respectively for those who’ve become trapped in toxic family situations that carry veneers of traditional acceptability.
Ryan is clearly animated by an affection for coffee, good food and his core characters - and a clear distaste for their foes. While giving the book a welcoming ‘vibe’, this does lead to the odd moment of cartoonish villainy and the characters’ voices stray to the didactic at times. However, the narrator’s voice has great clarity in descriptions of scenes, things and atmosphere. His descriptions can be powerful and occasionally hilarious in a wry way.
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