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Fortune's Fool by Terry Cassidy
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Fortune's Fool

by Terry Cassidy

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Karen Everett, trapped in a loveless marriage, becomes romantically involved with Wally Demchuk shortly after meeting him. He agrees to help her with some criminal activities, the aim of which is to acquire some of her husband’s wealth which Karen feels is her due for years of unhappiness. The scheme goes awry, and the couple find themselves ensnared in a murder plot. How can they prove their innocence of one crime when they are guilty of others? Whom can they trust? Can they even trust each other?

In one respect, the novel is a mystery. There is a murder victim, and the identity of the murderer is unknown. Suspense builds as Karen and Wally find themselves in increasing danger, and since they have known each other for only a short time, there definitely exists the possibility of deception.

But the book is more than an escapist mystery; it develops a number of themes. For instance, it examines love: Is love at first sight possible? To what extent can love change a person? Can love stay alive in an atmosphere of distrust? The novel also analyzes the connection between independence and responsibility: the right to define one’s own life entails acceptance of responsibility for one’s actions. Such thematic development certainly adds to the quality of a book.

The characters of Karen and Wally are well developed. Traits are gradually revealed, primarily through a character’s actions, though the inclusion of private thoughts - through alternating first person points of view - is also helpful in character development. Dominant traits consistently provide motivation for behaviour; for example, Karen’s streak of independence explains so much about her decisions both in the past and present. Backgrounds are given for the characters, backgrounds which also explain decisions and behaviour. What elevates this novel is that the characters are dynamic; they grow and change. For minor characters, there are wonderfully clever descriptions: “I never expected emotional support from him. He just didn’t have enough emotional life available to go around lending it out, even if the interest rates were at record levels.”

Some of the novel is set in Toronto, but Muskoka and Northern Ontario feature prominently as well. Though it is obvious that the author is familiar with the settings chosen, as evidenced with the very specific local colour, it is his descriptions of the more northerly parts of Ontario that stand out; a drive to Sudbury is described as “driving across the bones of the world, the shoulders, elbows, knees, the parts where the skin is stretched and doesn’t grow much hair to hide it.” Flying into Sault Ste. Marie, a character describes two of the Great Lakes: “two oceans joining, one blue and stretching away to the west, Lake Superior, well named for its pride of height and depth; and the other, green vegetation, a little wavier, sweeping off to the east and north, to find its own shoreline in the tree line, solid green with streaks of blue in it as if a giant rake had laid bare and exposed the water under the skin.”

What is also notable is the author’s style. Allusions abound. Beginning with the title, references to Shakespeare’s tragedies are most frequent, but there are also references to short stories, plays and poems. And then there are the mentions of movies and songs. These allusions aid in both character and thematic development. Also enjoyable are the digressions of the characters; their thoughts include observations and witty commentary on a variety of subjects (e.g. fast food in Ontario and Montreal, Canadian immigrant experiences, politics, highway signage).

Though I had to research “short selling” since my knowledge of stock trading is limited, I enjoyed the book. It offered me some good reading for both of my favourite reading genres: mystery and literary fiction. ( )
  Schatje | Jan 30, 2015 |
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