Montreal supercop Émile Cinq-Mars (City of Ice , 1999) returns, scores, and once again hangs about too long.
That he’s brilliant, even his many enemies would grant. That he’s sold on himself, even his few friends would be forced to acknowledge. Taciturn and garrulous by turns, the ever-testy star detective, whose unlovely face the media has somehow fallen in love with, is confronted this time out with what seems like mass murder. Forty-two people have died mysteriously, and there’s not much that’s usual about the list of suspects. Topping it, for instance, is the chief executive of a multinational pharmaceutical corporation who claims for his company an unselfish and unswerving dedication to AIDS research, a claim Cinq-Mars views skeptically. BioLogika’s methods may be impeccably scientific, but there are unsettling aspects to them nonetheless. Are the “lab-rats” merely that, he wonders, or is the term a euphemistic reference to a darker approach, as illegal as it is immoral? It’s no news to him, of course, that “medicine is money”—in amounts likely to attract acquisitive interest from organized bad guys who, there’s reason to believe, already have representation on the BioLogika scene. It all starts for Cinq-Mars with an enigmatic phone call from an obviously frightened woman. She has information she wants to pass on, but she won’t do it over the phone. Cinq-Mars must rent a lakeside fishing shack and wait for her there. Intrigued, he agrees, arriving in time to be among the first to discover the ultra-stiff stiff floating under the ice. Copious corpses to come, plus a near-miss for Cinq-Mars himself, before supercop rises to his poster-boy billing.
As in his thriller debut, the pseudonymous Farrow (a “Canadian writer of literary fiction”) proves he can make interesting scenes. It’s the meandering in between that gets him in trouble.