Combining travelogue with mystery, Dams (A Dagger Before Me, 2019, etc.) treats her England-based sleuths to a case in Canada.
American expatriate Dorothy Martin and her husband, retired Chief Constable Alan Nesbitt, enjoy traveling. So when their friend Judith Montcalm asks them to go to Victoria, British Columbia, all expenses paid, to help solve a perplexing case, they readily agree. Lady Montcalm’s uncle, John McKenzie, is a retired Mountie who’s concerned about a series of odd events and thinks an outsider’s view may help. After staying with John while they’re introduced to the area, they move to a condo normally occupied by the absent daughter of John’s fiancee, Amy Hartford. They visit the stunning Butchart Gardens, from which a number of poisonous plants have been stolen, and take a trip to meet Silas Varner, whose hawks are housed in high style while he lives in a hovel, brooding over the neighbors who think his raptors are killing chickens. After Dorothy is almost kidnapped in broad daylight, she and Alan wonder who could be targeting them. When the sleuths get threatening phone calls and an unknown woman is killed, ostensibly by Varner’s birds, the stakes are raised. An autopsy proves that the birds were framed; a knife was used to mimic the marks of talons. The murder was committed near a lovely tourist town that’s also home to surviving members of the Cowichan tribe, an Indigenous people almost wiped out by Europeans and their diseases. A Cowichan woman tells Dorothy that the victim may be a tribe member who moved to Victoria for an IT job. All roads seem to lead to Paul Hartford, Amy’s wealthy ex, who owns the IT firm, a man widely known for charitable giving and less widely known for his inability ever to forgive a slight.
Tension runs high until the surprise ending, the depravity tempered by lyrical descriptions of Victoria and environs.