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Ambitious City by Scott Thornley

Many, many years ago my husband and I lived on the Niagara escarpment, in an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere – at the bend in the road outside Caistorville. Not too far from Cayuga where some of the action in Scott Thornley’s second MacNeice mystery novel, Ambitious City, takes place.

Ambitious City Cover.jpg

This time the city of Dundurn – a fictionalized version of Hamilton, Ontario – is at the centre of the story. The mayor has a plan to revitalize the waterfront and bring tourists to his city. I remember Hamilton as place that we drove past as quickly as possible – over the terrifying old Skyway Bridge, or sometimes on a windy day along the beach road.

It is not long before there is mention of Georgian Bay as MacNeice remembers happy times spent there with his wife, before her death. But for now we stay in the city, and the surrounding area, up onto the escarpment – and eventually to a house full of bikers that I feel I knew (less the bikers) so many years ago. 

The investigation begins when the mayor calls MacNeice to come look at a car that has been found in the harbour – a car with a body or two in the trunk. There is a team in the harbour working on the recovery of ships from the War of 1812 – part of the mayor’s plan to attract tourists – and this is the last thing he needs. These bodies, in the trunk of a 1935 Packard are not recent – but they are somebody. When more, more recent, bodies are discovered there is truly a need to investigate.

MacNeice is already more than busy after the murder of a young woman, a knife attack in a city park. The two investigations are progressing in tandem, and the team is stretched to work on both at the same time. Though MacNeice now has the help of a young computer whiz kid, Ryan, a sort of a nerdy male version of Donna Leon’s Elettra, who becomes a valuable member of the investigative team.

Both investigations are complicated, and dangerous. Sometimes the description of the conflict is a little too brutal for my tastes, but such a good book. Now, on to the 3rd in the series, Raw Bone

Read one of the MacNeice Mystery novels, and you’ll read them all. Then you can come to Books & Beer with Scott Thornley on Tuesday 10 September 2019 at Trestle Brewing and meet the author of this terrific mystery series.

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