If you’re looking for an entertaining summer read that doesn’t stray too far from familiar territory, look no further than Black Water, the new mystery thriller by Rosemary McCracken.
Black Water’s main character, Pat Tierney is a Bay Street financial advisor with a knack for wading into criminal conspiracies — and solving them. Tierney was the heroine of McCracken’s first novel, Safe Harbor, published a year ago to critical acclaim.
In this instalment, Tierney, a middle-aged single mother of three, is tasked with overseeing the opening of her dealer’s new branch in the fictitious town of Braeloch, in cottage country north of Toronto. Around the same time, Tierney’s gay daughter’s partner, Jamie, becomes a person of interest in the suspicious death of a local Braeloch resident. To make matters worse, Jamie has gone missing.
So, Tierney has her work cut out for her: manage the branch opening, find her daughter’s missing partner and, while she’s at it, solve a murder — all while trying to manage child care and a healthy menu for her family.
Complicating Tierney’s life further are a past case of embezzlement of client funds and a local marijuana grow-op, which is attracting the attention of some menacing bikers.
McCracken has packed a lot into a little over 200 pages. The story’s multiple plots interlock like a well-crafted puzzle. And a densely populated dramatis personae is bristling with memorable characters: a spunky, progressive-minded nun who makes condoms available at a youth meeting; a successful female bank economist who’s in a May/December relationship with a young artist; and an enthusiastic junior advisor nicknamed “Soupy,” who plays in a band and drives a Porsche he can hardly afford — to name just a few.
As a bonus, McCracken’s attention to detail has given Black Water a soundtrack, of sorts. No CD inserted into a car stereo goes unidentified, and each selection corresponds with the story in its own way. This book’s playlist would include works by Vivaldi, the Tragically Hip and k.d. lang. And, if you include covers performed by Soupy’s garage band: Bob Marley and the Wailers and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
But all this colour would mean nothing without a compelling story. McCracken keeps the pot boiling with sparkling dialogue, suspenseful confrontations and lots of action: a nerve-racking snowmobile stunt, frightening gunplay and an innovative way to make use of a frozen leg of lamb.
A former staffer with Investment Executive and an occasional contributor, McCracken has crafted a story that will resonate with financial advisors and general readers alike. McCracken writes about what she knows. And that includes the financial advisory business, but also the picturesque lakes, rocky terrain, unpredictable early-spring weather and sometimes quirky characters of Central Ontario. And she knows human nature: McCracken’s protagonist is driven by a mother’s protective love and a professional’s moral conviction. Good qualities for a solver of crimes and a financial advisor.