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A Matter of Malice

by Thomas King

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422607,076 (3.58)8
Can a reality TV show solve a cold case? The crew of a true-crime reality TV show, Malice Aforethought, shows up in Chinook to do an episode about the death of Trudy Samuels. Trudy's death had originally been ruled accidental, but with ratings in mind, one of the producers, Nina Maslow, wants to prove it was murder. And she wants Thumps to help. Thumps is reluctant to get involved until Nina dies in the exact same place and in the exact same way as Trudy. Are the two deaths related? Or are there two murderers on the loose in Chinook? Thumps uses Nina's Malice Aforethought files to try to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, and in the process discovers that she had already started work on another case close to Thumps' heart: the Obsidian murders.… (more)
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This was an entertaining light read, with some links to a traditional detective story and some distinctions.
I enjoyed the narrator’s wry observations on small-town life and his quirky voice. It’s exactly the voice I remember from King’s CBC radio series, The Dead Dog Café. This is both good and bad. It’s familiar and comfortable. But it suggests that King has not developed much in the many years since the radio show.
The characters in the story are a broad collection of stereotypes, from the sheriff who just wants to keep things quiet in town, to the hard LA television producer who will do anything to get a show done.
King’s detective, Thumps DreadfulWater, wants to avoid getting involved in the investigation, and pushes away from it every chance he gets. He seems bemused, observing life from outside with an ironic detachment, but staying away from it as much as he can. But he doesn’t change either, in spite of a new diagnosis of diabetes and an ultimatum of sorts from his life partner. Nevertheless, he’s an intelligent observer. He not only sees connections that others have missed, partly because they have not tried to see them, but he also seems to intuit strategies for getting the criminals to confess their crimes.
His detachment, presumably, comes from his position as an Indigenous person living in white society. He clearly does not identify with the small Montana town of Chinook, although he has many friends there. He relates more deeply to the Indigenous characters, but he’s not close to them either, and he seems to want to stay away from reserve life. This may be a reflection of King’s mixed Cherokee and Greek heritage, not fully one or the other even though he identifies as Indigenous. DreadfulWater certainly seems to embody King’s voice, so I take him as some sort of stand-in for the author’s way of thinking.
While this has some elements of the western detective novel – the ironic, detached detective, the exaggerated characters, the improbable murder – it avoids the casual violence and replaces it with humour. This is a welcome turn, making the book an enjoyable read, even if lightweight. ( )
  rab1953 | May 10, 2021 |
The town of Chinook is under the spotlight of television: a cold-case show called Malice Aforethought is here to revisit the death of a woman previously ruled misadventure, but which her stepmother is convinced is murder. Thumps DreadfulWater, a former cop and now photographer, is approached to help the producer get results for her show. Then the producer dies in the same way as the woman in the cold case. Has a copycat killer struck, or was this the work of the same person?

This is the fourth book in the Thumps DreadfulWater series and my first, and I enjoyed it. The cast of characters is vivid and their relationships easy to figure out, even for new readers to the series. I chuckled out loud frequently as I read—I do love a mystery where the detective doesn’t take himself seriously. Now I am looking forward to going back to the beginning of this series.

I heard about this book from the CBC Radio program “Unreserved”, probably when the book was first published. ( )
  rabbitprincess | May 28, 2020 |
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Can a reality TV show solve a cold case? The crew of a true-crime reality TV show, Malice Aforethought, shows up in Chinook to do an episode about the death of Trudy Samuels. Trudy's death had originally been ruled accidental, but with ratings in mind, one of the producers, Nina Maslow, wants to prove it was murder. And she wants Thumps to help. Thumps is reluctant to get involved until Nina dies in the exact same place and in the exact same way as Trudy. Are the two deaths related? Or are there two murderers on the loose in Chinook? Thumps uses Nina's Malice Aforethought files to try to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, and in the process discovers that she had already started work on another case close to Thumps' heart: the Obsidian murders.

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