One for the Rock by Kevin Major
It seemed very odd this past spring to be in Newfoundland without a ‘Newfoundland’ book to read – and then just at the right moment a copy of One for the Rock by Kevin Major showed up in my mailbox.
One for the Rock is Kevin Major’s first mystery novel, though he is well known for his literary fiction and non-fiction. I hope he had fun writing this novel, I certainly had fun reading it.
The main character is Sebastian Synard, discarded husband, disgraced teacher, great Dad. His son, Nick, divides his time between the family home where his mother, Samantha, lives with her new man, Inspector Frederick Olsen, and Sebastian’s new home close by on Military Road.
Sebastian has recently started a one man company, On the Rocks(s), conducting tours of St. John’s and the surrounding area. He takes small groups of tourists on a walk up Signal Hill, a tour of Cape Spear and a walk along the East Coast trail. They tour the Quidi Vidi Brewery, they visit the Rooms, and take in a meal at Mallard Cottage and Raymonds, they pick up sandwiches at Rocket, along with stops at other recognizable St. John’s bars and restaurants. Sebastian shops at Belbin’s and has his coffee at Coffee Matters.
The week of his first tour of a new season Sebastian welcomes six tourists, men and women of various ages and stages of life, all keen to see Newfoundland, and icebergs and whales. They set off on their first excursion, a walk from Signal Hill to the Battery. All is well until one of the members of the group appears to be missing. Soon found, off the path, on the rocks below – he is dead.
Of course, as in most murder mystery novels, there is often a second murder – or an attempt - and the next in this one is the mugging of one of the women on the tour. The next is the tour guide himself, Sebastian, who finds himself on the rocks below a cliff along the East Coast Trail. Badly injured, Sebastian is saved, taken to hospital and literally screwed back together.
I had to laugh as I read about Sebastian’s efforts to recover from his injuries. I was much less seriously injured with a broken ankle while reading this book, but just as miserable about my lack of mobility and forced idleness. Unable to continue to lead his tour, Sebastian calls in a friend to take his place, and decides he will try himself to find out the why, who and the what of what is going on. The heck with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary – or should I say the F***ing RNC. Newfoundlanders use the F words a lot, in person and in writing, it is just part of the vocabulary.
Sebastian’s other occupation – and passion – is fine whiskey, the peatier the better. He writes a blog ‘Distill my reading heart’ each a month, pairing a whiskey with a book. He has a collection of scotch in his ‘beverage cabinet’. I understood completely, my husband has the same. I think these guys would like each other.
Another character I came to love is Gaffer the dog. It is Nick who wants a dog and when Gaffer presents himself Sebastian cannot deny him. Gaffer immediately becomes a beloved member of the family. Another Newfoundland writer once talked to me about writing with his own small dog on his lap, juggling writing with dog walking and family life. Perhaps it is a Newfoundland thing along with the icebergs and whales.
All in all, One for the Rock is a darn good novel to read while you are visiting this beautiful place – or just wishing to.