Shallow End: A Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery - Brenda Chapman

Jane Thompson used to have it all….beauty, a handsome husband, 2 great kids & a rewarding teaching career. Now she lives alone in a tiny damp flat, sneaking out the back to dodge reporters on her way to work at the Salvation Army.

 

Her new “career” is courtesy of an early release program. Four years ago, Jane was charged with the sexual assault of one of her students. In short order, she was convicted, imprisoned & divorced. All she lives for now is a chance to see the kids but her ex is not exactly the forgiving type.

 

Over at the Kingston Police Department, the detectives are getting restless. Local criminals seem to have taken the summer off & things at the station are slow. Then the call comes in. The body of a teenage boy was found by the lake. Jacques Rouleau assigns the case to detectives Kala Stonechild & Paul Gunderson and they quickly determine 2 things. It’s definitely a homicide & the victim is Devon Eton, Jane’s former student & accuser.

 

I’ll leave it there for the investigation aspect of the story. There are plenty of twists (and a few bombshells) ahead & the less you know going in, the more you’ll enjoy each WTH moment. Suffice to say I was in danger of needing a neck brace after my double take in the final chapter.

 

What has always distinguished this series for me is the equal time devoted to the development of interesting & original characters. Kala is First Nations & it’s been a rocky road to where she is now. Due to her childhood she is a quiet, self contained woman who prefers the company of her dog Taiku to most people. A few years ago she met Jacques Rouleau (book #1) & he’s been her boss ever since.

 

Jacques is a kind, patient man moving toward the end of his career. Usually he keeps a sharp eye on his detectives but in this outing, his personal life has him distracted. On top of that, he has to figure out what to do about one of his detectives who is a slime ball (Woodhouse, you are so lucky you’re fictional or we’d be having words) while placating a superior who’s never met a camera he didn’t like.

 

Paul Gunderson is a big brawny cop with more than a professional interest in Kala. There’s just one eensy little problem….his estranged-wife-from-hell Fiona who also happens to be the coroner. And as much as I sympathize with him for the hoops she’s put him through, there are times I’d like to cuff some sense into him. He’s a man in desperate need of a V-8 moment.

 

The case is a gripping one with Jane as the obvious suspect. And it’s not helped by the cops having to deal with a bunch of teenagers who lie like they breathe. The author does a good job of examining the ripple effects when someone is convicted of such a hot button crime. In some ways the perpetrator gets to escape the fallout when they’re put away. But their family remains on the outside where they’re subjected to the whispers & sideway glances of friends & neighbours. Purely by association, they too serve a sentence & theirs may be life. 

 

It’s a twisty & thought provoking read that could stand alone but I really recommend starting with “Cold Mourning”. There’s a huge back story behind the characters, particularly between Kala & Jacques & each book is all the richer as the relationships develop.  Can’t wait for book #5.