Published by Level Best Books,
ISBN: 978-1-947915-80-0 (PB)
In the second of the Lee Smith mysteries, No Return, Lee finds herself still
in Ontario but much further north in even wilder country, the First Nations
reservation of Webequie which extends to Hudsons Bay and is the territory of
the Ojibway tribe. She had been undertaking an extended road trip across Canada
with the intention of writing it up for Tourism Canada, but an unexpected
telephone call leads to an abrupt change of plan. Her long-term friend and now
her ‘significant other’, Jack Hughes had been funding an Ojibway boy from
Berkshire School, Blaze Suganaqueb, while at art college. Now it seems that
Blaze’s grandfather Arthur, who is a tribal elder, had found his woman Bernice
in bed with a prospector, Ross McKay, and had shot him, carving his face in
what seems to be a ritual manner. Arthur has been arrested for murder and
Blaze, distraught at his grandfather’s arrest, has been trying without success
to contact Jack. So, Lee sets off to see what she can do in Jack’s place, and
perhaps also write up the area for her travel article.
There is much in the Webequie territory that would be of
potential interest for readers of the article, not just about the inhabitants
of the reserve, but about the changes in their lives brought about by the
recent discovery of immense reserves of diamonds which has made Canada one of
the most important diamond-producing countries of the world. It is ironic to
learn that for all that the Ojibway are the original inhabitants of the area
they don’t legally ‘own’ the land, it belongs to the Crown and the Ojibway have
only recently been allowed to govern it, while still more recently are the
mining companies required to consult with the tribal leaders before extracting
diamonds or any other of the precious minerals that have led to the area being
christened ‘The Ring of Fire’ (referring to the geological processes that
originally created the minerals). Unsurprisingly this state of affairs has led
to considerable suspicion and resentment of ‘amitigoshi’ (white people) by some
of the locals. One little girl even thinks that blonde, pale Lee with her white
parka must be a ghost. Most of the locals, however, are reserved rather than
Throughout all this Lee is desperately trying to contact
Jack. But so far north contact is at best difficult. However, the local police
are not convinced that Arthur had killed Ross; it would be out of character,
especially since he was aware of, and more or less accepting of, Bernice’s
promiscuity. Moreover, it now seems that the bullet which killed Ross didn’t
come from Arthur’s gun. So, if it wasn’t Arthur who killed Ross, and why? Is it
anything to do with diamonds, or something else altogether?
While Lee attempts to deal with the problem of Ross’s death there
is also her personal problem concerning her relationship with Jack and the
disparity in their circumstances – he enormously rich, she from a very
different background and with the shadow of her father’s conviction for
multiple murders hanging over her which has made her prickly and defensive in
all her relationships.
A great read together with for me an excellent picture of a
country which is both familiar but at the same time unfamiliar. Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May
To read a review of the first book in the series One Way Ticket click on the title.
Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived
in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read
law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many
years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them
including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late
husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015.
She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two
of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is
to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now
concentrating on her own writing.