Act of Evil is a new Hal Bannatyne mystery novel by Ron Chudley. Although a reasonable story with some interesting twists and turns, the over-all tone of this book does not effectively capture the intense and terrifying read suggested by the title and the raging inferno pictured on the front cover. There is simply too much going on for this book to work.
Beautiful British Columbia provides the idyllic backdrop for this multifaceted story. It opens on a Victoria movie set, when actor Hal Bannatyne is stunned by the appearance of his former love, Mattie Trail, who has navigated more than her share of tragedies and loss, including the death of her husband, and the mysterious disappearance of her son Brian in a boating accident.
Meanwhile, Mattie’s father-in-law Fitz is being threatened and harassed by a goon hired by an unscrupulous land developer who is targeting the long-standing Trail family property.
Concurrently, Hal’s estranged, eccentric and possibly unstable brother Trent just
happens to reside in the area. Hence another reunion and its serious and sinister complications.
Chudley writes intelligently, creates suspense, and provides some lovely descriptions. It takes a while however for his plots and characters to meaningfully interconnect, especially when he flips back and forth too frequently, often with cliff-hanger chapter endings which give a choppy feel.
Eventually the story builds, improves, and moves to an exciting climax.
Amidst more tragedy is a surprise no one could have seen coming. One mystery is solved, but opens up new questions. Chudley unfortunately chooses to answer some, and yet having planted an earlier clue, leaves other secrets unaddressed.
The ending likewise disappoints, as things don’t turn out quite the way we are set up to expect.
There are good and bad points to Act of Evil. The right elements are present, but a tighter focus would have made a more effective and entertaining story.