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The Calling    by Inger Ash Wolfe order for
by Inger Ash Wolfe
Order:  USA  Can
McClelland & Stewart, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

One thing that makes Inger Ash Wolfe's The Calling stand out from the usual police procedural is its mature lead, sixty-one year old Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef, acting chief (for six years) of the Port Dundas police in Ontario, Canada. Divorced, Hazel shares a home with her spry eighty-seven year old mother Emily (the town's ex-mayor), and suffers unrelenting back pain - for which she doses herself with painkillers and Scotch. In a town where crime is minimal (only a cougar shooting competes for her attention) Hazel is shocked by the murder of elderly Delia Chandler who was dying of cancer - and seems to have known her killer.

The other unusual aspect of this mystery is the motivation of a serial killer named Simon, who is targeting the terminally ill in a cross-country journey from western to eastern Canada. This killer with a calling - and great expertise with herbal treatments - gives his victims detailed instructions in advance of his home visits, after which he makes gruesome arrangements of the corpses, which he also drains of blood. He also takes surprising time and effort to position his victims' mouths. Unwilling to give up control of the case to the RCMP, despite her subordinate Ray Greene's arguments, Hazel leads the hunt herself, even when the killer moves out of her jurisdiction. She crosses 'all kinds of lines.'

In addition to her usual officers, two new additions to Hazel's force participate in the investigation. DC James Wingate looks 'like an elongated boy scout' but offers useful insights, while Adjutor Sevigny, on loan from Sudbury, is somewhat of a renegade but gets things done. They use the expertise of a speechreader. They also interview a child, Rose, in a small town near the border with Quebec, where the killer deviated from his normal modus operandi to administer a herbal treatment for her continual seizures, which have since stopped. Young Rose has a talent for drawing. As Hazel and her officers move closer to the killer, his own carefully laid plans also begin to go awry.

What begins as a steady police procedural - albeit with a most unusual perp - explodes at the end. Hazel's carefully laid trap for a killer blows up in her face. She's betrayed by a subordinate and taken off the case just when it gets up close and personal. With everything at stake, Hazel confronts Simon herself. If you're tired of same old, same old procedurals and looking for something new and different in a mystery, you won't go wrong by reading Inger Ash Wolfe's highly recommended chiller, The Calling.

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