The Frailty of Flesh
A Nolan, Hart, and Tain Mystery by Sandra Ruttan
Review: The fast-paced action that marked Sandra Ruttan's debut series novel, What Burns Within, continues in volume two, The Frailty of Flesh. The setting of the British Columbia's Tri-Cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody is the same but with a side trip to the province's Interior. The three primary protagonists, RCMP constables Ashlyn Hart, Tain, a First Nation officer, and Craig Nolan, are back but still recuperating from the after-effects of their last case when a partner was killed and another wounded. Now, they're in search of the killer of four-year-old Jeffrey Reimer whose 11- year-old brother, Christopher, claims their 16- year-old sister, Shannon, bludgeoned the boy to death. Like the first book, this one's a rapid-fire page-turner from first to last. It ripples with interagency rivalries, unfolding of past lives, an obstructionist family and its egomaniacal lawyer, and the duo of Hart and Tain doggedly running a child-killer to ground while Nolan simultaneously rakes through the ashes of a cold case file.
Ruttan intricately and seamlessly weaves together details from the criminal cases and the personal lives and loves of the reserved but explosive Tain and the other two who are now living together, wrestling their own demons while they cruise under the radar of their supervisors, nosy colleagues and an inquisitive female reporter. To complicate their lives, Craig's review concerns the long ago case of a horrific rape-murder for which his father, Steve Daly, was the original lead RCMP investigator and for which he is now being sued for wrongful conviction by the perpetrator, coincidentally a client of the Reimer family's lawyer. While Nolan's doing his work, documents mysteriously go missing both from his desk and his father's home. And trying to maintain his and his father's integrity leads to multiple tensions between them and to several revelations about a sordid love triangle that ended a while back in a death and almost causes one in the present. Hart and Tain have their own worries over the four-year-old's murder when the Reimer family lawyer is the first person the victim's father calls as the two initiate their investigations. As they proceed they discover disturbing facts about various family members and just how close teenaged friends can be, much less siblings, abused, injured, abducted or murdered. It's a storyline filled with twists that ends with an unpleasant surprise and a couple of more deaths, including one that hits extremely close to home for Ashlyn.
Ruttan's creation of an ensemble cast of characters is first class. The teasing out of details about them from the first book and into the second provides just the right amount of information both for readers who have read What Burns Within and for readers who will want to read it. Their growth and development as they proceed here is consistent and credible. The obnoxious family lawyer, a couple of sexist detectives and a pair of bungling street cops are legitimate targets of reader scorn and believable sources for Hart's ongoing frustrations. Even the politics of policing gets an airing through the machinations that occur with both the cold case review and the child's murder. And the interagency rivalries depicted in What Burns Within, rage on again, continuing to interfere with the effectiveness of the justice system and to expose malingerers in an unfavourable light.
Although Ruttan brings the two cases to a close, she leaves the personal relationships of her three protagonists under a cloud. It will be intriguing to see what happens to dispel the overcast as the next murder mystery gets resolved. But if anyone can bring it all together, Sandra Ruttan can.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of The Frailty of Flesh.
Review Copyright © 2009 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
What Burns Within
Dorchester (Mass Market Paperback), May 2008
ISBN-13: 9780843960747; ISBN-10: 0843960744
Location(s) referenced in The Frailty of Flesh: Vancouver, British Columbia
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The Frailty of Flesh by Sandra Ruttan — A Nolan, Hart, and Tain Mystery
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Publication Date: October 2008
List Price: $7.99