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Review: Mel McGrath’s Give Me The Child, Joe Ide’s Righteous and John MacLachlan Gray’s The White Angel

Give Me The Child

By Mel McGrath

HarperCollins, 326 pages, $21.99

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Is there such a thing as a child psychopath? If so, can that child be "cured" or rehabilitated, or at least tamed to be safe? Those are just two of the vexing questions posed in this terrific psychological suspense novel. Dr. Cat Lupo is a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of very disturbed, possibly dangerous children. She has a rather tired marriage to a games designer, a bright young daughter and a stressful role at her clinic. Then a child is dropped off at her house by the police. It seems that, years earlier, when Cat was pregnant with their daughter and suffering from a severe prepartum psychosis, her husband had a brief fling. Ruby, the child, is the result. Her mother is dead, a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning from a leaky heater. And Tom, who has never heard of her, is the next of kin. Ruby is so very different from Cat's own daughter, who welcomes her new half-sister. But events make Cat suspicious of Ruby. Is it just jealousy stemming from the affair? Or something more sinister …

Righteous

By Joe Ide

Mulholland Books, 336 pages, $34

Call it what you will – ungraphic manga, comedy noir – but IQ, Joe Ide's debut featuring Isaiah Quintabe, was definitely original. It won the Bouchercon First Novel Award. Righteous, the second IQ novel, is every bit as solid and smart as the first. Isaiah is a local lad, raised in East Long Beach and dedicated to using his deductive skills to help the neighbours. But, like a knife in his soul, he wants to know what happened to his brother, Marcus, who was run down by a car and left dying in the road. Much of Isaiah's time, for the past eight years, has been spent searching or running from that death. Now, there's a clue. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, a wannabe DJ and her motocross champion boyfriend are in deep trouble. The two are gambling addicts and they owe a vig to a loanshark. Their wacked-out way to repay him ends up getting them on the wavelength of the Chinese Mafia. IQ's girlfriend asks him to save the pair from the Mafia and possibly themselves. Ide writes wild dialogue, creates totally original characters and makes me laugh out loud at two in the morning. What more can you ask?

The White Angel

By John MacLachlan Gray

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Douglas & McIntyre, 296 pages, $29.95

It takes a distinct talent to turn factual murder into fiction and playwright (Billy Bishop Goes to War) John MacLachlan Gray has it. The White Angel takes us to Vancouver in 1924 where Janet Stewart, a Scottish nanny, is dead, shot in the forehead. Who killed Janet and why? Gray tosses everything into the pot: criminal gangs, Chinese exclusionists, the KKK and a secret society. Anyone who ever thought Canadian history was boring should read this book. The real tale of Janet Stewart gets the plot moving but it's the fictional bits that really work. We open with a pair of undertakers en route to pick up the body. One is the real thing, the other, Ed McCurdy, is a failing poet who makes a living writing sensationalist journalism. This death, taking place in plush Shaughnessy Heights, is news. On hand for the police is Constable Hook, who watches as Janet's employer, doctor and another constable decide whether the death is suicide or a tragic accident. The case becomes a local scandal and then a national one, as politics enter the ring. The literary language and careful pace may put off some readers, but I found it tightly edited without a single extraneous page. One of the best novels of the year.

Video: Chris Colfer of Glee on bringing his book series to film (The Canadian Press)
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