A heartbreaking set of murders bring detectives Leith and Dion together in the Lower Mainland, where violence flows like a riptide.
Last summer the inlet waters washed an unnamed woman’s body onto the rocks of North Vancouver’s Neptune shipyards. When RCMP Constable Cal Dion returns home after a year’s absence, he finds the case still open and grown cold.
While Dion works to fit back in and put closure to the Jane Doe drowning case, newly relocated Constable Dave Leith is learning to cope with his first big-city posting. But they have bigger concerns: Why would anyone beat up a young electrician, then track down his wife and baby girl to finish them off? It is a motiveless and haunting killing that leaves behind one small witness and a handful of cryptic clues. And who battered and asphyxiated a wealthy nightclub owner in his own garage? A case of home invasion, by the looks of it. But Leith has a less abstract set of suspects to deal with: the victim’s business partner and his strange little clan.
The North Vancouver General Investigations Section is put to the test, with two files to solve, one tragic cold case, and Dion seemingly lost at sea.
About the author
RM Greenaway has been a waitress and a darkroom technician, and also worked in probation. She travelled B.C. as a court reporter, and writes a crime series set in the province featuring the barely compatible RCMP detectives Cal Dion and David Leith. Her first novel, Cold Girl, won the 2014 Arthur Ellis Unhanged award. She lives in Nelson, B.C.
Excerpt: Undertow: A B.C. Blues Crime Novel (by (author) R.M. Greenaway)
Lance Liu was beginning to believe he wasn’t dead after all. He hurt all over, he couldn’t see too well, and couldn’t seem to move. But if he were dead, he would be pain-free, wouldn’t he? And probably serene, and looking down a tunnel of warm, bright light. He was distinctly being and doing none of that.
So he had survived. He blew out a shaky breath. He blinked at the murk above, all dark and dribbly, spattering erratic raindrops on his face. The tree was pissing on him, like it hadn’t done enough already. All around was tall grass, bushes. The bushes made him nervous. Would be nice to have his vision back. Damned shenanigans.
What had his mom always said?
Coming events cast their shadows before them.
Or I told you so.
After tonight, he was going to make some major changes in his life. Maybe return to church. He wanted to bring a hand to the side of his head and feel the damage, but couldn’t. Tried to shift his legs but couldn’t. Just needed to calm himself a bit. He tried to pray, stretched out under the giant tree that had smacked him twice. “Dear God,” he whispered, doing his best, because his best was all God required. “Forgive me my — ” but a noise stopped him. He listened hard.
A car sped past above, wet tires on wet road. Was that the noise he heard? He struggled to turn that way. He shouted out, “Hey! Help!”
The car was gone. Didn’t see his vehicle down there, didn’t see trouble, wouldn’t come to his rescue. Nobody would come to his rescue. The panic surged through him like a low-grade electric shock. He couldn’t keep lying there. He needed to get back to the family, make sure they were safe. He managed to flop a knee, up and down, and up again. Good. Not paralyzed.
He made more resolutions as he worked his other leg back to life and flexed his hands. Never rise to a taunt again.
That was what put him in this ditch. Taunts. The SUV dripped privilege, just glared cash — a big, boxy black-and-chrome Hummer telling him I’m rich; you’re a blue-collar shithead. All he had wanted was to level the field, make a buck, and take that guy down a notch. No face-to-face confrontation. No bloodshed. No harm done.
Didn’t happen that way.
* * *
How did it happen? Lance picked up the tail in Deep Cove, as instructed. He was led around town a bit, stopping at the liquor store, and a KFC, and finally hitting the Upper Levels. All good, just two trucks tootling along the highway. Where it went wrong was the Hummer taking an off-ramp, up a sparsely trafficked two-laner, leaving Lance exposed and vulnerable. That would have been a really good time to back off. But he didn’t.
The Hummer sprinted away, topping a hundred in a sixty zone. Lance did his best to keep the vehicle in sight, trying to tail without looking like a tail. The Hummer swerved hard through a hairpin. Lance took the curve more cautiously, but his tires still squealed. At that point he was hit by an epiphany. “I don’t need this,” he declared. He dropped back so the Hummer’s wide-ass tail lights ahead shrank and converged into the darkness. “We don’t need this. Nobody needs this. I’m calling it off. Not just this, but all of it. Pack it in, moving back to Cowtown, with or without you, man.”
The you, man was Sig — the Sig Blatt in his mind, his business partner and pal. Moving west was Sig’s idea, just like this Hummer business. The Sig in his mind was peeved, a pale, blotchy face telling him to stay on that Hummer’s ass. Lance switched him off and spoke to Cheryl instead, the other reason for this move.
Cheryl’s pressure was more a passive insistence. A prairie girl who thought it would be so cool to live on the very edge of the Pacific Rim. “See what I’m doing here?” he told her. “Never had this kind of baloney in Calgary, did we?” He was based in Airdrie, not Calgary, but from this distance — way over on the West Coast — Calgary and Airdrie pretty well converged to a point on the map. “And all this so you could wade in the waves. Well, you waded, didn’t you? Then you said it was cold and dirty and you wanted to go home. One flippin’ day at the beach. Big moves like this don’t come for free. D’you have any idea what that walk on the beach cost us?” He made up a number. “Five hundred dollars a millisecond worth of walk on the beach. No way, princess. I’ve had it. I’m gonna beg Ray for the job back, and we’re outta here tomorrow.”
Sig popped back into view, still griping. But in the end, Sig would pull up stakes, too. He would follow Lance back to Morice & Bros. Electric (1997), and their cheapskate boss Ray Duhammond. Sig would get it, eventually. They just weren’t cut out to be businessmen.
The tail lights were back in sight, for some reason, and growing larger. The Hummer had slowed right down. Lance did, too. He slapped at his jacket pockets, then the seat beside him, piled with receipts, grubby boxes of connectors, a tangle of hand-tools. He found his iPhone and thumbed the home button. A colourful, glowing line indicated his phone-servant was listening. He snarled at her: “Siri. Call fucking Sig.”
Red blazed at the side of the road ahead and to his right, smeared by rain and darkness. The Hummer had pulled over and was parked on the shoulder. Lance drove past, not giving a fig any more who was in that Hummer or what he, she, they, or it was up to. Siri apologized and said she didn’t understand his request. He started to repeat, “Call Sig,” without the eff-word, but headlights popped up in his rear-view mirror, then pitched and straightened and expanded.
The Hummer was beginning to scare him.
It was now coming up on his rear, and by the way those headlights were spreading like a couple of supernovas, it was coming fast. He sighed in relief as the Hummer pulled into the oncoming lane and tore past. Passed on a solid line, it was in such a hurry. Why the rush? There was nothing up there but forest, rock wall, and more forest.
He didn’t care. He was off the case. He slowed further, on the lookout for a good place to pull a U-ey, and in the distance red dots flared. The fickle-hearted Hummer had put on its brakes. Again. A knot tightened in Lance’s gut. White backup lights glared. The Hummer had thrown itself into reverse and was moving. Seemed to be moving fast, too.
Lance swore aloud. He flashed his high beams. He leaned on his horn. He tried steering forward into the oncoming lane, but the road was narrow, and the SUV was wigwagging, hogging the centre, blocking him.
This wasn’t a freak accident. It was an attack.
An enjoyable read.
The second volume of author R.M. Greenaway's outstanding new B.C. Blues Crime series, Undertow is a deftly written and inherently compelling read from cover to cover.
Midwest Book Review
A fine and evocative writer … well able not only to surround her two main cops with other striking characters, but to keep the novel’s plot twisting with winning suspense.
London Free Press
B.C. Blues series has given her a new license on life, one to entertain Canadian (and hopefully, a wider world-wide audience) mystery buffs.
The Sun Times
Other titles by R.M. Greenaway
Five Ways to Disappear
River of Lies
B.C. Blues Crime 4-Book Bundle
Flights and Falls / Creep / Undertow / Cold Girl
Flights and Falls
A B.C. Blues Crime Novel
A B.C. Blues Crime Novel
B.C. Blues Crime 3-Book Bundle
Creep / Undertow / Cold Girl
B.C. Blues Crime 2-Book Bundle
Undertow / Cold Girl
A B.C. Blues Crime Novel