COLUMN: A review of Mike Martin's 'Beneath the Surface'

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“Missus,” I said, interrupting my reading of Beneath the Surface (Baico Publishing Inc.), “if I ate half as much as the crowd in this novel there’d be far too much of me for you to love.”

Beneath the Surface

“Stop your nonsense,” Missus replied.

Truth is, on nearly every page of this book somebody is eating something. Sgt. Winston Windflower might be eating hot raisin bread he bought at Goobies, or Cpl. Tizzard might be fisting in to a box of Tim’s doughnuts. Whatever the case, some character is chowing down, mostly on Newfoundland yummies — Leo’s Fish and Chips, for instance.

Yes, Leo’s.

Mike Martin might feel the urge to pelt me with rocks for rambling on about his tendency to have his characters eating, eating, eating. If I were in his position I’d probably have my own hands full of stones.

However, if it is true that imitation is a form of flattery — or whatever the saying is — Mr. Martin is offering compliments to one of Windflower’s — and, I suspect, one of Martin’s own — favourite authors, Donna Leon.

I’m unfamiliar with Leon but you can bet a loonie I’m going to check out her Commissario Guido Brunetti series because … well, because, “One of Windflower’s joys was reading about the Italian meals that were a staple of Leon’s books.”

Hand on my heart, I will knock off talking about the loads of grub in Beneath the Surface even if patch-a-berry jam is mentioned which — shhhhhhh! — I believe it is.

As I scribble, it’s iceberg season in Newfoundland. I saw one last week in Conception Bay similar to the one pictured on the cover of Beneath the Surface. As we all know, there’s more iceberg lurking underwater than above the surface which is why, I suppose, Mike Martin uses such a snap on the furl of his book, considering the story is not about icebergs.

Rather — think metaphors and stuff — his story explores the dark goings-on beneath the surface of, among other things, what at first appears to be a mundane murder, if there’s any such thing.

Champion rower Amy Parsons is found dead, apparently strangled.

A corpse is not an unusual opening for a murder yarn, eh b’ys?

Beneath that visible iceberg lies corruption as dangerous as rotted undersea ice that might dissolve at any moment, capsize a pristine iceberg and swamp anyone handy with a smothering wave.

Amy Parsons’ murder leads to Windflower being assigned to investigate suspected human trafficking, the deeper evil underlying Amy’s death.

Sadly, Windflower uncovers indications that the peddling of human cargo might have roots extending to Grand Bank where he is stationed.

This third installment of Mike Martin’s Sgt. Winston Windflower series shows that the author has honed his pen, so to speak. His regular characters — Winston, Tizzard, Sheila — continue to evolve. New, and we hope, permanent characters have come to town.

A cracker-jack new character is Windflower’s Uncle Frank, a bit of a reprobate who shows up in Grand Bank and immediately becomes a member of the local wharf parliament.

Miriam Evanchuk from Estevan, Sask., joins the Grand Bank detachment and, unfortunately, becomes the target of shadowy “beneath the surface” behaviour within the ranks of the provincial branch of the RCMP.

This book is noticeably longer than the previous two. That’s good and bad. It’s bad because it’s hard on aged eyes that tend to weary after a couple of hundred pages. It’s good because it allows the author to take his time and gradually develop his plot so that the whole story moves forward relentlessly, slowly but powerfully churning out significant details with the might of a glacier pushing its forward edge to becoming … oh, I don’t know, the tremendous seeds of icebergs.

Mike Martin claims St. John’s has some of the country’s worst drivers. I don’t disagree. Like many rural Newfoundlanders, I return from a trip to Town, wipe my brow and proclaim, “B’ys, they’m nuts in there.”

I do chide Mike for suggesting one of the problems is older drivers “dodging along,” driving too slow. 

On one trip to Town I stopped at a red light and, I suppose, became captivated by some summer roadside attraction. Whatever. When the light changed to green I didn’t instantly stomp the gas pedal.

Missus nudged me a nano-second before the raging neurotic townie behind us stuck his head out the window and bawled out, “Hey! Move it, ya bayman!”

Mike b’y, truly, I wasn’t intentionally dodging along.

Thank you for reading.

— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at ghwalters663@gmail.com

Organizations: Grand Bank, RCMP

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Conception Bay, Estevan Sask. Dunville

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