“Dead of Knight: A Jack Staal Mystery” by William R. Potter features some familiar trappings — a serial killer out for revenge and dedicated cops working a bit outside the lines to stop the killer — but presents them in different and interesting ways.
First is the setting, the fictional town of Hanson in southwestern Canada, near Vancouver — which is just a couple hours north of where I live in the U.S. The differences and similarities between Canadian and U.S. law enforcement were an interesting sidelight as the story unfolded, and the descriptions of scenes particularly resonated with me.
Another difference is the main character, Jack Staal. The son of a well-loved policeman, Staal was part of the big-city force in Vancouver before a tragic incident sent his career spiraling. Hanson PD may seem like a step-down to some, but for Staal its a lifeline to remain doing what he knows best. At age 42 he drinks, smokes, skirts the rules and follows his hunches — often successfully.
In the hands of a lesser writer, Staal would be a cliché, but Mr. Potter has added some interesting elements to the mix. Staal suffers from Post-Traumatic Syndrome and the effects, violent, vivid dreams, unexpected rage, insomnia, help to ground him in the real world.
That world includes the Birthday Boy killer, so named because his victims are killed on their birthdays. Finding this killer isn’t officially Staal’s job, there is a task force run by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — the Mounties — chasing Birthday Boy. But Staal senses the team is missing something in their search, and he and his squadmates at Hanson PD keep digging away on a parallel investigation.
No spoilers here, but the chase involves twists, turns and some tragedy. I would recommend “Dead of Knight” to anyone who enjoys police thrillers.