This review section is here to give you a better idea of what other people think of Rick's books. We think they're all wonderful! But if you're thinking of putting your hard-earned money on the line, you want to buy more than a pig in a poke, don't you?
So here it is, our famous “warts and all” review page. Yes, we would probably be wiser putting up only the good reviews and editing out any negative comments, but that wouldn't be very honest, would it?
The Fallen One
“Dying isn’t hard. I’ve done it a hundred times.” Marta Hendriks, the heroine of Rick Blechta’s suspenseful new outing The Fallen One (Dundurn. 378 pp., $17.99) knows of what she speaks, because as a leading operatic soprano, it’s her job to convince the audience she can expire in the most dramatic way as the music swells loudest. But one can die inside even many more times, a fate Marta wished she never had to discover, only doing so upon learning of her husband’s death while in the midst of one of her many public deaths.
Blechta writes movingly of Marta’s swift breakdown and gradual return to health, but soon gets down to the business of page-turning when she sees or thinks she sees her supposedly dead husband on the Paris Metro. Already fragile, she knows that pursuing the matter may test her sanity, the patience of her friends and backers, and harm her career. But the very stubbornness that allowed Marta to overcome critical vocal coaches and cruel doubters spurs her to find out the truth, even if doing so moves her way past professional harm and into the sphere of her very life being at stake.
What elevates The Fallen One from competent by-the-numbers suspense is Blechta’s clear enthusiasm for the operatic world, as seen through the eyes of a woman struggling to regain her place in it. He portrays Marta with compassion, but doesn’t shy away from emotional payoffs when she learns things about her husband and their marriage that cast their entire relationship into doubt. Would that we could truly know those we profess to love, but sometimes it takes dying multiple times in order to live as freely as one can.
Sarah Weinman, National Post
Classical music lovers will welcome this compelling mystery from Arthur Ellis Awardfinalist Blechta (Cemetery of the Nameless). While Canadian opera singer Marta Hendricks is performing her first leading role as Violetta in La Traviata at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the tenor playing Alfredo expresses surprise during the final act that she can continue to sing knowing that her husband, Marc, has just died. The distraught Marta later learns Marc perished in a fire at the site of the house he was building for them in eastern Ontario. Determined to resume her career after two years of therapy, Marta accepts an offer to play Violetta for the Paris Opera. Then on a stroll in Paris, during a sudden rain storm, she spots her supposedly deceased husband. Though Marta fears she may have lost her mind, she begins a long and perilous search for Marc. The suspense will keep readers turning the pages until the dramatic conclusion.
Blechta is a master storyteller who writes with a musical touch: Opera singers who believe in their own invincibility, their love/hate relationships with their vocal coaches, and their onstage battles with colleagues who believe they have divine rights.
A Canadian prima donna is forging a comeback after the tragic death of her husband. The road to recovery finds her filling in at the Paris Opera. She sees her dead husband, she thinks, on the street and her revival is replaced with a resolve to find the truth.
Author Blechta writes entertaining, well-researched stories with dialogue and setting as highlights. In The Fallen One, Blechta has kicked it up a notch.
Don Graves, Hamilton Spectator
Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail
My favorites are Cynthia Harrod-Eagles series where the main character’s partner/wife plays for an orchestra, and Gerald Elias’ wonderful series that reflect his own skills as a classical violinist. Rick Blechta’s novel, The Fallen One, features a female opera singer. This was new territory for me, as I’ve seen an opera once or twice but decades ago so my knowledge of opera (other than knowing titles of famous operas) is limited. I enjoyed what Blechta had to share about this art form.
As this is a novel, though, it’s the story that’s important, and Blechta has a great story and a great hook. His main character, Marta Hendricks, is singing the lead in La Traviata at the Met, and while she feels it’s going well, she’s getting strange looks from the rest of the cast. Towards the very end of the performance, one of the other singers whispers in her ear that her husband is dead. She collapses completely.
This is just the first chapter. As readers, we see Marta re-building both her life and her career, culminating in a performance in Paris once again in La Traviata. This is a smashing success, as Marta is discovering that her technique must be matched by acting and emotion. Feeling light and happy, she’s out on the Paris streets when she sees her dead husband.
She has been in enough therapy to hold on and to call her therapist before she completely falls apart once again. She continues performing (her therapist is also her voice coach), and she feels she’s worked her way through what was surely her imagination, when she thinks she sees her dead husband once again.
Everything that follows in the rest of the novel a surprisingly suspenseful tour of Canadian Biker gangs, among other things comes from Marta’s quest to discover any secrets her so-called dead husband left behind him. When people Marta questions begin to turn up dead, she ratchets up her investigation.
Along the way she acquires a new boyfriend (also a singer, though not of her caliber), and Blechta is skillful at depicting Marta’s life as a professional musician. The parts of the story that concerned music were fascinating to me, and the fact that musical instruments are actually used as an escape tool at the end of the novel was both clever and impressive. I appreciate it when unlikely detectives use their actual skill set to work their way out of a jam.
Blechta combines the skills of a cozy writer sharp characters, good food, lots of scenic travel with the skills of a suspense writer. It’s a nice mix. Marta is a terrific and well realized character I recommend making her acquaintance.
Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
Conductor went from live wire to dead end
I call them GO train mysteries, or a “Sunday afternoon cozy.” The publisher calls them Rapid Reads. Either way, it involves a first-rate mystery story-teller, set the task of writing a very short novel or a very long short story.
In Orchestrated Murder, the publisher went to Canada’s go-to-author for all things musically mysterious Rick Blechta. He obliged with a finely-tuned gem of a story built on the powerfully- political dynamics of today’s highly-strung orchestras.
A conductor is found strangled with a cello string. The motive is clear: The conductor, a sublimely talented master of the baton on the podium, is a treacherous manipulator on his office couch. Where’s the catch? Well, the entire orchestra has confessed. Orchestrated Murder is a tangled little mess with a satisfying conclusion in under 125 pages.
Don Graves, Hamilton Spectator
A Case of You
Each novel is a stand-alone work, so cleverly plotted and with characters so intensely drawn and well-rounded you think you’re following a series. The binding thread is music, in this case the power and fragility of the human voice.
Blechta baits and sets the interest hook from page 1. Olivia Saint, a young waif knowledgeable in the ways of panhandling, walks into an open-mike session at a dingy jazz club, stands there and sings, bewitching the trio backing her along with the hard-drinking weeknight crowd.
One night she disappears, leaving behind a song book of questions, regrets, memories and murder.
Blechta has created a story with quiet passion and expressive dialogue that shapes the characters’ development. He understands the music business and possesses a gifted capacity to express in words how a song can enter the soul, leaving the reader profoundly sad, yet filled with promise in the same phrase.
This is a tale of deceit, deeply buried pain and harsh reality. The realistic finale is a challenging moment and is an impressive piece of writing. A satisfying novel that is a must-read for my 2008 list.
Don Graves, Hamilton Spectator
Search ends with a jolt
When a bedraggled young woman steps timidly onstage on a Toronto jazz trio’s open mic night, what comes out of her mouth knocks musicians and audience flat.
The woman, who subsequently identifies herself as Olivia Saint, has a voice so pure and compelling that, according to trio drummer Andy Curran, every listener feels personally drawn into each song.
The club where Curran’s instrumental trio has a regular gig isn’t doing well, and there’s every chance his group will lose its job. So when Curran encounters Olivia panhandling at Union Station, he starts encouraging her to join up as a vocalist.
Over the aggrieved protests of the trio’s pianist and the adamant opposition of Olivia’s hostile friend Maggie, she finally does, and the club’s crowds grow fast.
It’s clear, though, that Olivia has some serious emotional problems. She seems to have little clue how to look after herself, and except when she’s singing, appears spacey and vague.
She also has no musical training, so the recently separated Curran moves her into his house and starts exposing her to the great vocalists of jazz and their music.
Then two burly strangers turn up at the club and hustle Olivia into the night.
And her friend Maggie turns up, strangled, on Curran’s porch.
That’s the set-up for this fifth crime novel by Rick Blechta, himself a musician who once formed a progressive rock band, has taught instrumental music and now plays with the Advocats Big Band.
Whatever Blechta’s own musical expertise, the politics of playing and the beauties of jazz complement but don’t overshadow the pace, suspenseful structure and deft characterizations of his novel.
Curran is working to sustain a good relationship with his precocious 11-year-old daughter, while nursing considerable and mutual resentments about the wife who has moved to Oakville with a more prosperous partner.
When he hires a private investigator, she too is the survivor of a bad marriage, the mother of a couple of teens and the independent-minded partner of another musician. A woman she in turn has just hired, and who works along with her on the hunt for Olivia, is a prickly loose cannon with a hard history and boldness to burn.
Writing from the perspectives of both Curran and his investigator, Shannon O’Brien, Blechta makes sure all his Toronto-based characters are given their personal as well as professional dues.
That’s not so much the case when the search takes O’Brien and colleagues to New York and California on the trail of Olivia and her wealthy but sorrowful past. An wicked stepmother comes into the case, as does a remote and cultish rehab centre.
As well there are dabs of violence, some over-the-top sleuthings involving a California investigator who’s an old friend of O’Brien’s, and a few exceedingly sophisticated technological aids.
And at the end of the line is an abused, exploited, tenacious and wildly gifted young woman.
Blechta is sufficiently experienced to know that happily tidy endings, while unfortunately common in crime fiction, can be annoyingly unrealistic. So that’s not what he provides -- instead, a jolting finale to A Case of You that’s as mournfully real as the song it’s named for.
---Joan Barfoot, London Free Press
The Muse Ascending
Crime writer melds music and murder
By Jim Napier
On the surface, few things could seem more different than music and murder: one is about creation, the other about destruction at its most atavistic level. Yet at the hand of a skilled writer, even these apparent opposites can flow seamlessly together, forming an imaginative tale in which each element draws from the strength of the other. This week’s pick is an example of how harmony and homicide can be woven into a captivating and original tale by one of Canada’s premier crime writers.
Born in New York State, in the tony enclave of Westchester County, Rick Blechta took up music while still in his early teens. After joining a rhythm and blues band he turned his attention to a variety of instruments, including the French horn, trumpet, and keyboard. He also mastered percussion instruments, the guitar, the saxophone, and the electric bass.
After moving to Canada in 1971, Rick studied music at McGill University. Graduating from McGill with a Bachelor of Music degree, he formed a rock band called Devotion, which despite good reviews folded in 1975. Rick turned his attention to teaching instrumental music, first at the Etobicoke School Board, later at the Toronto District School Board, for twenty-three years; following that he taught and conducted at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto for sixteen years. Rick is also a gifted graphic designer, and takes an active hand in the creation of the cover art for his own novels.
A Case of You is Rick’s sixth crime novel. His previous crime fiction includes Knock on Wood, The Lark Ascending, Shooting Straight in the Dark, Cemetery of the Nameless, and When Hell Freezes Over (the latter reviewed in these pages in July 2007). Until recently he was president of the Crime Writers of Canada.
Rick is married to prominent flutist and teacher, Vicki Blechta. They have two sons, Karel and Jan, neither of whom, Rick insists, are musicians or writers.
A Case of You
(RendezVous Crime, 2008)
Andy Curran is a drummer in a struggling trio at The Sal, a marginal Toronto jazz club struggling to stay open. To kindle public interest, the group decides to hold Open Mike nights. One evening a young street beggar named Olivia Saint appears and asks to sing. Dressed in shabby, mismatched clothing, and showing very little presence, the band members are dubious. Still, they decide to give her a chance.
By the time Olivia has finished her song she has the audience in the palm of her hand. Her voice is utterly captivating, her stylizing subtle, wistful, and haunting. The audience goes nuts.
The members of the trio recognize her talent and invite her to sing with them on a regular basis. Olivia accepts, and before long word gets around. The group and the club are doing better than they ever have. Their prospects have never looked better.
Discovering that Olivia is still sleeping on the streets, Andy invites her to move into his house. It is not long before she is sharing his bed.
Then one night two men appear at the club, and between sets speak with Olivia. They take her outside. Sensing something is wrong Andy follows and tries to help, but fails. Forced into a car, Olivia has disappeared from Andy’s life as suddenly and mysteriously as she first appeared.
In desperation he hires an ex-cop and private investigator, Shannon O’Brien, to find Olivia; but before she can get very far Olivia’s only friend, a streetwise hooker named Maggie, is found strangled on Andy Curran’s front porch. When the police discover that she and Andy had quarreled several times over Olivia’s singing at the club, they don’t seem interested in looking any further for her murderer.
To make matters worse, when Maggie’s death makes the six o’clock news, Andy’s ex-wife tries to isolate him from their daughter Kate, arguing that a murder on his doorstep constitutes a less-than-appropriate setting for their eleven-year-old daughter.
Meanwhile, Shannon works her way through Olivia’s background. What she finds only raises more questions. The family was extremely wealthy. Olivia’s brother had been murdered years earlier, and Olivia was the prime suspect at the time. She had been institutionalized, making her unfit to stand trial. Her father, already in ill health, had died within a few months, and her stepmother became the family matriarch, determined to keep any further scandal out of the public eye. The woman agrees to meet with Shannon at her mansion on the Upper East Side in New York City, and although she is impeccably polite, Shannon leaves feeling that, as they say in the music business, the vibes are not good.
Shannon O’Brien persists in her inquiries, and tracks Olivia down to an exclusive private rehab clinic in the isolated mountains of Northern California. Short of personnel, Shannon assigns a brash, young new operative, Jackie Goode, to travel to California and infiltrate the facility as a patient, posing as someone with a drug dependency. Things take an ominous turn when Shannon is unable to contact Jackie. Lacking the right to operate in the US, Shannon is reluctant to go to the authorities. That, it turns out, is the least of her problems: before events come to a climax, several lives will hang in the balance, and death will be only a gunshot away.
A Case of You is Rick Blechta’s strongest book to date. Olivia’s disappearance is complimented by sub-plots dealing with Andy Curran’s ongoing battles with his ex-wife, his attachment to his pre-teen daughter, and the tension between Shannon O’Brien and her new assistant, Jackie Goode, who is perhaps a little too willing to take risks in order to please her new boss.
Blechta succeeds in capturing Andy Curran’s obsession with the enigmatic and reclusive young woman who seems to enchant everyone who hears her sing. He wraps it around a compelling tale that reaches from Toronto to New York to the secluded mountains of California, carrying the reader along effortlessly in his best novel to date.
When Hell Freezes Over
Just as the super-group Neurotica was about to hit it big, the band’s keyboardist and creative genius walked away from it all. Since then, Michael Quinn has just kept going, avoiding commitments and involvement at all costs.
Then one day, a distraught young girl jumps into his car to avoid a band of thugs, and his life will never be the same again.
The chase takes him all over England, Scotland and Toronto, drawing in a sexy private investigator and eventually reuniting the former bandmates.
Blechta, the Toronto-based president of the Crime Writers of Canada, has produced a hugely entertaining book. It’s packed with great characters, lots of action, a believable romance and lots of great musical lore drawn from his own vast experience.
If this is the future of crime writing in Canada, it’s a bright one indeed.
--- Joanne Sasvari, Calgary Herald
This fifth novel by musician and novelist Rick Blechta is his best, and after Cemetery of the Nameless, that’s saying a lot. When Hell Freezes Over has a most engaging pair of investigators, a complex plot that moves between Toronto and Britain, and a fascinating view of the behind-the-music machinations of the big business of rock music.
Michael Quinn, known to fans as Quicksilver, was once the leading light of the Birmingham band Neurotica. He left the band more than 20 years before for Toronto, where he runs a lucrative instrument-rental business. He’s back in Birmingham to visit his mother and purchase a Mellotron when he gets caught up in a dangerous web.
The spider in the centre is an attractive woman, who jumps into his borrowed car and begs for help. Within minutes, two gangs of thugs are trying to get at them. Quinn manages to get away with the woman, who turns out to be the daughter of an American Mafioso. One set of thugs wants to return her to Papa. The other is a crew of strangers.
Quinn takes her along to Scotland to return the damaged car to his old Neurotica pal, Angus. There, he learns the band wants him back. They always do, but his mantra is: "not till hell freezes over."
The first third of this book sags a bit, largely because the girl in distress is too pat. But it soon picks up as Quinn finds himself caught up in a number of ways with the woman, who disappears as swiftly as she arrived. Blechta marries that mystery with a murder, and what happened to make Quicksilver leave Neurotica. All three get resolved satisfactorily.
--- Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail
Rick Blechta is a fine storyteller. His fifth novel, When Hell Freezes Over, is a skilful blend of first-person narrative and third-person exposition, achieving the intimacy of the former and the vivid pace of the latter. A compelling parade of characters, a plot with the twists and turns of a country road, and an insider’s knowledge of the music business make for a highly entertaining read.
Michael Quinn, former rock star, saves a young woman from thugs intent on making the attractive young blond anything but pretty. He drives her from Glasgow to the northern tip of Scotland to stay with an old friend, whereupon he sleeps with her, buys into her pack of lies and departs the following morning. Soon his old friend is found dead with his throat cut and his body covered in cigarette burns.
Whether it is the devious planning of the mystery woman, the edge-of-your-seat tension or the international setting, When Hell Freezes Over delivers one twist after another, enriched by realistic tidbits about the music business. Murder often triggers painful reflection and Blechta achieves these moments without a hint of the triteness that such moments engender in poorer fiction. Rick Blechta plays his readers the way his musician hero, performs with finesse, passion and fireworks.
--- Don Graves, Hamilton Spectator
Cemetery of the Nameless
The new novel by Rick Blechta is excellent. Whether it’s the terrific plot or the spectacular location, or just plain good writing, the book is hard to put down.
The Cemetery of the Nameless is a small corner of Vienna in a little crook of the Danube, where bodies get caught in a narrows. Sometimes, the bodies are identified, but all too often they are too damaged or too lost, and end up in this quiet little cemetery. Blechta uses this haunting image throughout, and it works beautifully.
Stunningly beautiful, spectacularly talented, Victoria Morgan is an acclaimed violin virtuoso, in demand all over the world. She’s just been given a magnificent Stradivarius violin to make her performances even more exciting. She should be on top of the world, but she’s wondering whether the adoration is for her art or just for the image of celebrity.
Still, when she disappears in the middle of a performance in the middle of a major European tour, it stuns her husband, Rocky Lukesh: Tory just doesn’t do things that reflect poorly on her talent and her career. Then there’s a murder and Tory is implicated, and Rocky heads for Vienna.
--- Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail
Victoria ‘Tory’ Morgan is a superstar inside the world of classical music. This fiery redheaded violinist has sold-out concert venues from all over the world and she has served as an inspiration to young girls aspiring to be classical musicians. The only problem with Tory is that she can be a tad unpredictable and impulsive, exasperating everyone around her, from her husband Rocky to her pianist and accompanist Roddy.
Now, Tory is being offered the opportunity of a lifetime. A Viennese baron is offering her the chance to debut a ’lost’ and unknown Beethoven rhapsody to the world. However, it is only a one-time deal -- if she tells anyone the deal is off. She is in the middle of a European tour and she has less than twenty-four hours to decide.
Without a what-have-you, Tory walks out during the middle of a performance disappearing in the Austrian night creating a big media frenzy. Now she is about to regret her career-suicide decision as she is implicated in the murder of a respected Austrian citizen.
She is on the run, making her the most wanted woman in Austria and no one knows where she is -- not even her husband. This is something more serious than a discovery of a lost treasure. If the police find Tory, she might not get a fair trial in a European court. It will take the monumental patience of Rocky and Roddy to find out what mess she has gotten herself while at the same time feeling helpless of the situation.
Rick Blechta is a musician first, a writer second. When he combines the two he produces magic with an intense, suspenseful story that will not let you go. One can see how passionate Blechta is with regards to music just by reading some of the opening chapters in his latest book, Cemetery of the Nameless. It made me wish I had paid more attention to my music appreciation class in college. An accompanying CD would have been a good bonus and it would have enhanced the novel, but that is asking a bit too much.
Though a tad on the long side, the book still manages to captivate. The author’s use of alternating first-person narration between Rocky and Tory helps define the story as both characters are separated for most of the novel and we get to appreciate what they are feeling at the moment. They have no idea how their spouse is doing, but the readers get the opportunity immersing themselves deeper into the story.
It’s a shame that Blechta does not publish books more often; he could have the best of both the literature and music world. His books are worth the wait.
--- Angel L. Soto, reviewingtheevidence.com
Toronto writer and musician Rick Blechta’s latest mystery story held me right to the end. But that’s not why it is discussed here. Blechta’s clever storyline and characters directly involve the world of classical music.
An elderly man discovers the manuscript of a previously unknown violin work by Beethoven. Soon he is dead...and the narration is taken over by the two lead players, a virtuoso violinist and her husband, who provide different perspectives. Victoria Morgan is vulnerable and unstable otherwise why should even a brilliant musician lke her be daft enough to abandon an important concert and go off with a total stranger? Blechta obviously has first-hand experience with the pressures of performing, and understands the irresisible lure of 'the opportunity to plumb the depths of an unknown violin masterwork’ by Beethoven. Blechta’s main villain, a sadistic, dissolute music-loever who happens to be a baron, pomplete with castle, is something of a stick figure. But the gay accompanist, the loyal best friend, the fickle manager, the cultivated detective all contribute to terrifically enjoyable entertainment. I just wish Beethoven’s Concert Rhapsody in F# Minor existed!
--- Pamela Margles, Wholenote magazine
Violin virtuoso Victoria "Tory" Morgan is lured away from her very successful European tour by Austrian aristocrat Baron Rudolph von Heislinger. He offers her a newly discovered concerto, almost certainly Beethoven’s last work, in return for certain favors. At the end of an evening of fine dining, very good wines, and some great music, Baron Rudy makes Tory his offer. She declines. She wakes up next to a very dead Baron Rudy, the knife sticking out of his chest bearing her fingerprints. She runs, with the help of one of Baron Rudy’s maids.
Rocky Lukesh is back in Canada, recuperating from an injury which is keeping him from playing his own instrument. When the news breaks that his wife is being sought for the murder, Rocky heads for Vienna, where he and Tory’s accompanist Roderick Whitchurch try to figure out what happened. There are several plausible suspects for the murder, all with motives and opportunity. Blechta is a musician; Cemetery of the Nameless reads (to a non-musician like myself) with the same kinds of patterns and repeating themes one hears in pieces of music.
Cemetery of the Nameless is a good mystery. There are moments when it feels like a thriller, in that the situation always gets worse. Blechta can ratchet up the suspense with the best of them. I recommend this, even to non-musicians. A very good read, with the added bonus of great atmosphere and compelling characters.
--- PJ Coldren, Crimespree Magazine
How far will a wealthy Austrian baron go to ensure that the first performance of a newly discovered Beethoven violin concerto will be played for him and him only, never to be shared with anyone else? What will he do to make sure that the Canadian violinist, Victoria Morgan, whom he has hired to play the composition for him, will not tell others about the experience? But somehow, it’s the baron who ends up dead, not Victoria. Victoria and her husband need to prove that she is not the murderer.
Rick Blechta has written a fascinating book, ultimately leading us to the actual killer, and at the same time, sharing with us his knowledge of the world of classical music and musicians. And just in case you think it is far-fetched to find a new Beethoven score so long after his death, a new manuscript of Beethoven’s "Grosse Fugue" was found this year by a librarian of a Philadelphia Seminary.
--- Prime Crime Books
Hurray for Canadian mystery writers! This is another wonderful mystery written by Canadian writer Rick Blechta. It takes place in Vienna, where Victoria Morgan is giving a concert. Tory Morgan is a true artist who is ruled by emotion rather than brains. She is lured to a castle by a Baron who says he has an unpublished violin concerto by Beethoven. Next, Tory wakes up covered in blood with a dead man beside her. Then all hell breaks loose and Tory’s husband comes to try and find her and solve the murder. The story takes many twists and turns and you can’t help but root for Tory to get herself out of this mess. Any person who enjoys music, exotic settings and interesting characters will enjoy this book. I recommend it for a good holiday read.
--- Gaylene Chesnut, Whodunnit Books
Shooting Straight in the Dark
Think a blind, younger Bonnie Raitt, and you’ve got Kit Mason, a struggling musician desperate to get both her career and her non-existent love life kick-started. But those twin preoccupations are forced to take a back seat when her close friend Marion is brutally murdered. That’s the premise of Shooting Straight in the Dark, a thriller from Toronto musician-turned-author Rick Blechta (Knock on Wood, The Lark Ascending): forget being a professional songstress, it’s time to become an amateur sleuth. To crack the case, Kit recruits her other best pals, a close-knit yet often dysfunctional group of friends who call themselves the Ruthless Babes. Clearly a man who has spent a lot of time around women, Blechta depicts their foibles and failings with real insight, humour, and tenderness. He’s much more convincing in describing their group dynamics than the interaction of Kit and Patrick, her new lover.
Blechta keeps the suspense high by switching the narration between Kit and the vicious predator now targeting the Babes, referred to simply as "The Man," as in "The Man couldn’t remember the last time he felt so angry. His rage sent out tendrils in every direction, like some noxious weed." The reader is also likely to take pleasure in Blechta’s observational asides about life in Toronto. Whether he’s querying the suspect acoustics of Roy Thomson Hall or the wimpyness of the Blue Jays fans at SkyDome, his insights ring true. Those seeking a breezily entertaining yet suitably suspenseful thriller will find Shooting Straight in the Dark right on target.
---Kerry Doole, amazon.ca editorial review
Rick Blechta’s third novel has a lot to recommend it, including the author’s insider knowledge of the music business. The story begins with songwriter-guitarist Kit Mason’s memory of the day she discovered she was going blind. Now, six years later, she is 30, sightless and still refusing to accept it. Her closest friends, a women’s softball team, convince her to run an ad in the personals column to renew her social life. But when one of them is murdered, they investigate, not date. Blechta provides a nice Toronto setting and the women (the "Ruthless Babes") have fun. But in the process, the plot gets lost and coincidence must save the day.
--- Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail
It is a shame that Rick Blechta is following a career in the music industry because he has a great future as a novelist. Shooting Straight in the Dark is a fun and entertaining novel that will lift the spirit of anyone who reads it. It is not Blechta’s first novel, but this is probably his best.
The Ruthless Babes are five close friends who share their love for music and softball and have been for each other through thick and thin. The biggest challenge they faced was the loss of sight of one of their members who had a hard time coping with this handicap. It has been six years and the girls are ready to lift Kit Mason’s spirit once again. After a night of drinks they help her write a personal ad in their local paper and are helping her support her with her music career. Though reluctant at first, things are starting to look up for Kit and she is looking forward to a brand new life. Unfortunately, it will be delayed. One of the Babes will be murdered in a way that makes it appear as a random occurrence. One of the others is not convinced and will do her own investigation with or without their help. During the course of the story, the ladies learn some secrets the victim was hiding, but it does not change their perception of her. They have been there for each other ever since they first met.
The mystery aspect of the novel is fairly standard without any major surprises. It is the way that this group of women works together that appeals to the audience. They work well as a group and they all have their own individual lives. The emotion was real and the characters are far from ordinary. Highly enjoyable book with a great entertainment value. Hope they return again in the near future.
--- Angel L. Soto, reviewingtheevidence.com
And finally from the You Can’t Please Everyone Department, a review someone posted on amazon.ca and also on amazon.com, pretending to be both from Montreal and New York. Neat trick. We suspect it could be someone from the Big Apple with a "mellotronic ax" to grind against our intrepid author:
This is a book by a musician trying to imitate John Grisham. The problem is Bkechta is not a writer. The book is filled with so many cliches and hackneyed phrases that you feel your slogging through deep mud. Examples "The door burst open and I screamed in alarm" or "It was so quiet you could hear half (italiczed) a pin drop." It reads like one of those formulaic Goosebumps books. He also shows us how to make many grammatical mistakes such as "...who’d worked with the good doctor closely." Is that Doctor Closely I presume? It’s the work of an amateur, a first book try that every writer does and usually discards (if he or she is smart). The story plods, it’s predictable where it should not be, the characters dry, wooden, shallow, the blind girl ’sees’ things she should not, for example she knows from across the room that her friend is sprawling on the couch. It’s just not worth the time to reach the anticlimactic ending that you almost predicted. I say ’almost’ because it’s much more poorly constucted, conceived, and written than I ever imagined.
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