Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The CallingThe Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like Inger Ash Wolfe's "The Calling". It has good writing, interesting plot, and a refreshingly different main character, whom I can relate to because of my age. However, this police procedural suffers from a major implausibility, detection shortcuts, and overly theatrical ending.

Hazel Micallef, a 61-year old Detective Inspector, serves as an acting commander of a police detachment in a small town in Ontario, Canada. After a very long marriage she is recently divorced, has to take care of her elderly mother, and struggles with a severe back problem that causes her constant pain. Used to handling only minor crimes, her department suddenly faces a major challenge - a terminally ill woman is murdered in a gruesome manner. The victim is partially exsanguinated and her mouth is arranged in position of a silent cry.

Soon, another victim is found, posed in a similar death tableau. Hazel and others in the department decide to handle the case themselves, without notifying RCMP and Ontario Police Services. Through intuition they soon discover that they are dealing with a proficient serial killer. Even if we set aside the improbable speed with which Hazel's team figures out the killer's actions, it is just plain impossible that a maverick small-time police chief would handle the case of probably the worst serial killer in Canada's history on their own, without involvement of provincial or national police forces. I am not saying that a small and understaffed provincial police department would not do a better job than the entire RCMP force. In fact, they might. I am just saying that they would not be given a chance to do that in our imperfect real world.

"The Calling" has some strong points. First of all, Hazel's character is believable; I perceive her as a real person. Also, because of my profession, I love the fragment on "digital visetics" (computer visualization of lip movements based on input sequences of phonemes), which is a somewhat hot research topic in computer science. Many supporting characters are portrayed vividly (with the exception of Raymond Greene, who is pure paper). Still, the weaknesses of the novel, aggravated by a routine, thriller-like climax, prevent me from rating it higher than

Two and a half stars.

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