Skyward

Philip David Alexander. Now or Never (LitDistCo, dist.), $19.95 trade paper (220p) ISBN 978-1-988098-21-0
Alexander's fourth novel (following Peacefield) could be described as a taut and adroit crime novel, but that doesn't tell the whole story. It is quirkily funny, in a way that sits comfortably among books by Carol Shields and Trevor Cole, and Ethan Coen's screenplay for Fargo. Alexander is assured enough to add thoughtful flashes of Twin Peaks–style weirdness to the mix, including a lonely clairvoyant cop, a "bush-league drug lord," and a creepy annual fair in semi-rural Skyward, Ont., where three men have vanished over three consecutive years. The arch but fond depiction of small-town life in southern Ontario's factory, farm, and fast food franchise belt begins with a drunk driver and a wintry stolen car chase. Keeping readers enjoyably off-balance, Alexander opts for four different narrative perspectives (two police agents, one townie whose bad attitude and quick fists land him in trouble, and "The Pursued," whose fondness for joyriding in expensive cars is just the start of a list of crimes). While focusing, as in a police procedural, on the trial-and-error tracking of the elusive thief, this intriguing thriller also provides satisfying glimpses of the characters' unsettled lives as they deal with work politics, post-retirement dreams, childhood traumas, and affecting matters of the heart. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/2016
Release date: 10/01/2016
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