A Lethal Lesson (A Lane Winslow Mystery, 8)

Written by TouchWood Editions
Review by Jon G. Bradley

This eighth volume in the Lane Winslow mystery series sees the newly married Lane taking on the role of a substitute teacher when both current teachers suffer unexplained misfortunes: one was severely beaten via an attack and languishing in hospital with disconnected memories, while the other has simply vanished. With a ransacked teacher residence, a sparse schoolroom, and a Webley found at the back of a cabinet, Lane and her new policeman husband find themselves immersed in a baffling situation during the winter of 1947.

As is Whishaw’s literary style, this is a complicated narrative that involves a plethora of local idiosyncratic side characters, unexpected scenarios, as well as the odd, completely unanticipated twist. Her use of dialogue is superb as she offers insights into small-town northern Canada after World War Two along with, at times, emotional pain and memories still unresolved.

Whishaw is to be congratulated for not falling into a “newly married” chronicle. She concentrates the narrative on the unfolding events and not on two individuals beginning a new life partnership. As such, she keeps the reader involved in the action while sprinkling emerging events: cranky neighbours both nosy and secretive, crashed and lingering mysterious cars, domestic abuse, ferocities of winter weather, and complications of contemporary political ambitions.

Mind you, a few readers may find her flashback technique a bit disconcerting. This is not a straightforward narrative following a recognizable chronological thread. Rather, the overall literary journey is jarringly interrupted at times as readers suddenly find themselves transported to another time and place. While these analepses do offer key background data, the overall chronicle is paused.

Pleasingly, not all threads are neatly brought together. The main conundrum is indeed realistically resolved, but many sidebars are left to linger and percolate.