Tuesday, 10 June 2014

In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany

published 2007




A laughing group of young people came down the Elm Street hill, heading toward Front Street . The women wore long colorful skirts and loose blouses, and the men’s hair was either shaved off or gathered into a mass of dreadlocks. They eyed [Molly] Smith and the police vehicle, and crossed to the other side of the street. One of the boys dropped his cigarette to the ground, and crushed it under his heel. He scooped the butt up and stuffed it in his pocket. The scent of marijuana lingered in his wake. Smith did nothing: this was Trafalgar, where the police pretended not to notice minor drug infractions…

The mountains surrounded the town in every direction, making it feel as if they were sitting in the bottom of a wide-bottomed, green and blue pasta bowl. Two young women walked by, long straight hair parted in the middle, hanging loosely down their backs. Brightly patterned skirts flowed around their ankles. Their sandals were thick and practical.

“Haven’t seen outfits like that since the Sixties,” Rich said.

“This is Trafalgar.”



observations: Two blogging friends – Margot Kinberg at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist and TracyK at Bitter Tea and Mystery – recommended this author and series; and the book also has a connection with my recent Guardian books piece about conscientious objectors. Kathy D, in the comments on that piece, made the point that the draft dodgers avoiding Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s were conscientious objectors too. Many of them moved to Canada, and In the Shadow of the Glacier is set in Trafalgar, a typical small town (apparently based on Nelson BC) where many of them might have settled. 


One of the strands driving the plot is an attempt to create a Commemorative Peace Garden as a tribute to the Vietnam War resisters: many citizens of Trafalgar think this is a great idea, but many more are horrified for a variety of reasons. When a local businessman is murdered, the garden plan is one of several possible motives. There are many characters and plot strands in this book, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them, but it’s worth the effort to enjoy a good solid murder mystery with a great policewoman sleuth in Moonlight Molly Smith, surely the best detective name ever. She is the daughter of a hippy activist and a draft dodger, and is given the excellent line “You can step back, Mom, uh, Mrs Smith” when breaking up a fight.

Delany gives a very entertaining and even-handed view of the different factions in the town – there is a great dialogue scene in the bagel shop where everyone expresses an opinion while waiting in line for breakfast - and an equally entertaining if far from even-handed picture of a newsman who reminded me of Ron Burgundy. This book was the first of a series that is now up to number 6, and I’ll be happy to read more of them. The author’s website is here.

The top picture is of Snoqualmie Moondance 1993 (ie in Washington State, not Canada), the lower one is by Joyradost: both are from Wikimedia Commons and used with the permission of the photographers.

14 comments:

  1. I'm interested in reading both more by female authors and more Canadian crime fiction, but I'll decline the opportunity to kill two birds here.

    I'd curious to know what the one on the left in the top photo looks like today. If that's all she had to put on, she shouldn't have left the commune til after dark, methinks.

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    1. How do you know it isn't a man?
      Maybe it's slightly on the cozy side for you, but it was good stuff....

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  2. Nicely reviewed, Moira. I haven't read anything set in Trafalgar. Does the word "Glacier" refer to anything in particular?

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    1. Now you mention it, no. I hadn't thought of that, perhaps one of our Canadian experts can tell us if it's a glacier area?

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  3. You did a great job of describing the atmosphere in the book, Moira. I liked a lot of the relationships in the book, they seemed realistic to me. And I did think there was a good bit of attention paid to clothing throughout the book.

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    1. Thanks Tracy - you and Margot are responsible for my reading it and I'm very grateful. I will certainly go on with the series.

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  4. Moira - Thank you so much for the kind mention. And I agree that this is an even-handed treatment of the different points of view and factions in town. I hadn't thought about that when I first read the novel, but she does. And I like the Molly Smith character too. So glad you enjoyed this.

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    1. Thank you, as I say to TracyK above. I'm really looking forward to reading more about Molly.

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  5. Moira: I am glad you have made an early summer reading trip to Canada.

    I have read books in both series authored by Vicki but have not read In the Shadow of the Glacier.

    Moonlight is a great name.

    For clothes in books her other series (I read Gold Web) with Kondike dance hall owner, Fiona MacGillivray, has some great descriptions of the clothes she wears to work at the Dawson City Savoy and the challenge of getting gowns in the late 1800's in the Yukon.

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    1. Oh that does sound good... I'm going to have to scoop up all Delany's works. And, can you tell Prashant and me, would there be glaciers in the region she is writing about in this book?

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    2. Moira and Prashant: I have not been to Nelson but it took just a little research to determine that the Kokanee Glacier Park is about 99 km by road from Nelson. It is actually much closer but you have to go around mountains to get there by car.

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    3. Thanks Bill - very helpful! That's not exactly 'in the shadow' but it gives a feel for the area.

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  6. The 1960s and early 1970s were all about free-living lifestyles over here if one was under 30. I went to college in the 1960s and wow--did everything go on!

    Those were the days when women tried to give flowers to soldiers at Washington D.C. anti-war protests.

    It was a wonderful period.

    I must say that I made it through high school wearing navy blue, olive green, black, maroon turtlenecks and tights, leather shoes and bags, like my friends.

    I like this series. It's fun, light but tells a good story with interesting characters.

    And, to add on about conscientious objectors, the man I knew during my childhood who had been a CO during WWII (and a vegetarian; he didn't want to kill or hurt anyone or eat any part of a living being) moved to Nelson, B.C., with his family sometime in the 1970s.

    I wouldn't say "draft dodger," as there were good reasons to avoid the draft, and there was a gigantic, national anti-war, anti-draft movement going on. It was common for draft-eligible men to go to Canada, especially Nelson.

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    1. It's a very interesting period Kathy, both for politics and clothes....

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