cover image Strangers Among Us

Strangers Among Us

Laurali R. Wright. Scribner Book Company, $20.5 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-684-81382-0

Although she opens with a forthright murder, Wright (Prized Possessions) eschews the whodunit and even the whydunit to explore dark subplots lacking simple answers. Karl Alberg, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police staff sergeant in the small village of Sechelt, B.C., detected tension in the Gardener family, but he didn't expect 14-year-old Eliot Gardener to murder his parents with a machete. Refusing to dismiss him as a ``bad seed,'' Karl takes an interest in the boy, who refuses to talk to police or social workers at the youth shelter where he is confined. Similarly uncommunicative is Jack Coutts, who has been nursing a grudge against Karl since they were neighbors years ago but only now has turned up to follow Karl around the streets of Sechelt. Although Jack's presence makes Cassandra Mitchell, Karl's significant other, decidedly edgy, Karl explains only that the issue is personal, not work-related. While Jack and Karl circle each other like dogs doomed to fight if their eyes meet, Eliot makes friends with another troubled youth in the detention center--from which they soon escape. These two stories never converge as Wright opts for a juxtaposition of parallel psychologies (Eliot's and Jack's) rather than intersecting plots, holding this tale together less with suspense than with a relentlessly brooding tone. (Dec.)