A Magpie’s Smile, the first mystery novel by Eugene Meese is unfortunately more novel than mystery. Also, a mystery should focus on at least two of the following elements: the detective, the killer, and the investigation. Here, Meese focuses solely on Detective Jake Fry to the detriment of the other two elements. You know you are in trouble when you want to skip ahead to the killer’s next appearance so as to move the story forward and this happened too often while I was reading A Magpie’s Smile
This novel is the story of Detective Jake Frye, a lone wolf sort of guy, investigating what becomes a series of murders where the victim is scalped. You occasionally get to see killer but not quite enough to make you interested in him or her.
The oddest thing about A Magpie’s Smile is nobody but nobody seems to like Calgary, the town the mystery is set in. I did not find a single positive description of the town. In fact the whole novel is negative including Frye not getting along with anybody. Also odd is this novel takes place in 1977 for not particular reason aside, probably, that this was when Eugene Meese worked and lived in Calgary.
There are solid elements in this novel but not enough of them show up at the same time. Meese tends to overwrite, making descriptive passages oddly repetitive within themselves and within chapters. Frye spends almost as much time woodworking as he does investigating. Many extraneous scenes get in the way of story development.
A nod to this statement from NeWest Press: “No bison were harmed in the making of this book.” Special mention to the overall look of this book and what seems to be the collection although the grey lettering on black background for the spine does not make the book shelving friendly.