Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

Title: The Calling
Author: Inger Ash Wolfe
ISBN: 9780151013470, Harcourt Books, 2008
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Hazel Micallef mystery
Rating: A+

First Line: He was precisely on time.

Inger Ash Wolfe is the nom de plume of a "North American writer", and there has been much speculation as to the writer's true identity. I have my own suspicions, but at the end of the day, I don't really care whom the person is. All that's important is that this writer knows how to spin a wonderful tale.

61-year-old Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef has lived her entire life in the small town of Port Dundas, Ontario, Canada. Hobbling toward retirement with a bad back and a dependence on painkillers, she's still reeling from a divorce after nearly forty years of marriage. The only thing she has to sustain her is her critical octogenarian mother (the former mayor of Port Dundas) and her own acerbic tongue. When a terminally ill woman is found murdered in her own home and other similar murders follow, Hazel and her understaffed department find themselves on the trail of a serial killer.

Hazel takes this series of murders on her own patch very seriously:

It was strange to have spent all of one's life in or close to a single place. But every time Detective Inspector Micallef drove this strip, her heart sang. This was where she belonged; there was no other place for her.... This was her world. Every doorway framed a story for her-- some good, some not so good-- and the faces that peered out of those doors, or walked the sidewalks, were her intimates.

It was serendipity for me to read two examples of what author Mike Befeler terms Geezer Lit back to back, but I found Hazel to be a breath of fresh air. She's a woman in a position of authority. Some of her body parts don't work the way they should. Some mornings she'd just rather stay in bed. Her mother could wear out a daughter half Hazel's age, but Hazel keeps on trucking. The head of the Port Dundas police department retired seven years before, and Hazel was named "temporary" chief. However, these are the days of governmental penny pinching, and since Port Dundas is such a little backwater, the temporary part of her job title makes Hazel laugh almost as much as the thoughts of getting a cell phone.

Delia Chandler's death raises too many questions for Hazel-- one of the benefits of living in a small town being that one knows the behavior and habits of everyone else. During the preliminary investigation Hazel shows one of the reasons why the people in Port Dundas like her so much: she cares every bit as much about them.

"I don't want her taken away from here," said Hazel sharply. "She was a citizen of this town for every minute of her eighty-odd years, and she'll be treated that way. Not like any old victim to be stuck in a fridge."

When Hazel isn't dealing with other detectives or fighting to keep the media from knowing more than they should, she gets to go home to deal with her mother, Emily:

"What do you want with the bloody Internet, Mother?" she'd asked her. "It's nothing but filth and collectibles. And chat rooms-- what do you need with a chat room?"

"You sound like my mother," Emily Micallef said.

Wolfe's characterizations are so real that I was caring deeply about these people in no time flat... to the point where I worried about Hazel's overstepping her authority when she found a way to get the additional help they needed. Would her eagerness to do anything it takes to identify the killer and bring him to justice cause her to make mistakes that would make the entire investigation blow up in her face and let a murderer go free?

Brilliant characterizations, a finely tuned sense of place, the feel of life in a small town, and a plot that can move so quickly one's in danger of getting whiplash... all these things combined to make The Calling an incredible read. I savored this book, I fell in love with Hazel, and I've got my sights set on the next book in the series, The Taken.


  1. It's clear you really loved this one Cathy. As it happens the thing is sitting in my TBR pile so I've just moved it right to the top. When I'm finished my current print book I'm going to read this one straight away.

  2. Glad that you liked this one. I am fascinated by an actual non de plume where people don't know who the author is. I'm so used to them being known, and then what's the point of that.

  3. Yours is probably the most persuasive review I've read for this book.

  4. I read this one last year and enjoyed it. I'm not sure where I found it, but someone said the author is Russell Smith, a Canadian author; I've no idea if this is accurate, and I wasn't familiar with his work.

    My favorite character was Emily, Hazel's mother. I love the light note she always presented in the midst of some dark episodes. I also liked Hazel's two detectives. I'll be looking for The Taken! Thanks for the heads up, I didn't know it was out yet.

  5. I love it when you love a book! This one does sound excellent.

    What I love is that the heroine is my age. Sometimes I think publishers believe the whole reading world wants to read only about twenty-somethings. I'm glad a few publishers are recognizing the Boomers aren't afraid to read about people their own age. [End of rant.]

    At some point I hope you'll give us your theory as to the identity of the author.

  6. OMG! Your last paragraph sealed the deal!

    Love the new banner image -- that's me and Mr. BFR: he flyfishes, I read.

  7. Bernadette--Now you've gone and made me nervous! I know it's "different strokes for different folks" but I always want other readers to love the same books I do!

    Nicole--I'm in total agreement. And as I said, as long as the books continue to be this good, I'm all for the author remaining anonymous!

    Corey--Persuasive enough for you to read it? Of course you may not be as close to being a geezer as I am! ;)

    Jenclair--I would bet good money that the author is Canadian because of the "North American" description. Apparently US readers shy away from Canadian authors? (What's up with that???) Emily got on my nerves a bit, probably because I've lived in close proximity to similar souls. I'm glad I have you a heads up for The Taken, although I don't think it's out yet.

    Margot--Hopefully publishers will realize that Boomers like to read and that they probably would like to read books geared toward their life experience. I'm not Hazel's age, but I'm not that far off. (And I have a bad back! LOL)

    Beth--I'm glad you like the new artwork! The one I put up next month will probably do bad things to folks with motion sickness. :(

  8. Stunned there is an actual non de plume in today's techno age. lol.

  9. Don't be nervous Cathy - I already had the book so you didn't 'make' me spend my hard earned cash :D

    Besides the book couldn't possibly be as bad as the one I just finished

  10. Resort--I'm stunned, too. From what I've read, no one's been able to figure out whom Wolfe really is, which is amazing!

    Bernadette--Okay, I'm not quite as nervous now! I saw your review of that other book, and I appreciate knowing that I should stay away from it! :)


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