Murder and Intrigue in Hamilton!: Beach Strip

beach stripI have a confession to make: some of my work reading has snuck onto this list. Right now I’m running behind in my work, so I have had to re-jig my reading a little to allow me to start some research on my next dissertation chapter. I should have heeded E.’s warning that this would happen, but I did not.

Beach Strip is a crime/mystery novel set along Hamilton’s Beach Strip. This small strip of land juts out into Lake Ontario and is absolutely gorgeous. I have walked and cycled it many times and thoroughly enjoyed it, so it was fun to read a mystery novel set along it. Reynolds does a very good job evoking the rich historical and contemporary community that exists along the strip. This was definitely the highlight of the novel for me. I had known some of the area’s history, but Reynolds filled in a lot of gaps. In reviewing my notes after finishing the novel, it seems like the first 100 pages or so of the novel spends more time setting up the place than actually moving along the plot. I had no problems with this, but fans of the mystery genre might not appreciate this so much.

A quick note here about reading styles: I realized that I read differently when I’m doing research for my work than when I am reading for pleasure. I can read really quickly if it is for pleasure whereas research reading is much slower with an eye for any detail/image/theme that might be useful for my project. It’s like the difference between looking at a painting with the naked eye or with a magnifying glass. This is not to say I like one more than the other, just that they are different. Are there other reading styles beyond this? Does scanning a news story constitute a third kind of reading? What about reading advertisements on the bus or in the mall?

The central premise is the “suicide” of a police officer, Gabe, and the story of Josie, his wife, and her attempt to prove that he was actually murdered. There is plenty of police intrigue, most of which I wasn’t particularly interested in – it’s probably a genre thing. The story is told in first-person through Josie’s voice, and I appreciated the humor and depth Reynolds brought to the character. She seemed like the most complete character while some of the others seemed more like stock mystery characters – again probably a genre thing. The pacing was good and the thematic focus on the beach made it compelling.

I have never been a big reader of crime fiction and Beach Strip has not changed this fact. At moments I was getting into the “game,” if I can call it that, that crime/mystery novels play. I was trying to sleuth out who did it, but I realized that I did not really know the rules of the genre so found it tough going. I’m assuming that mystery novels never pull a deus ex machina move with the killer/culprit being someone that has not been introduced at some early point in the novel. I noticed a couple of important clues in the process of reading, items like a missing notebook, a character’s connection to a ring, and so on, but I never spent the time connecting the dots. I did think at one point I had it figured out, but the character I suspected was simply a false lead left by Reynolds (points to him for that). I feel like I could be convinced to read more crime fiction, but I think it will need a good argument/ a couple of novels to do so.

I would recommend this book to people already interested in crime/mystery fiction or to people who want to know more about Hamilton’s beach strip and are willing to read a murder mystery to do so.

 

Reynolds, John Lawrence. Beach Strip. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2012. Print.

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