I really like the mystery genre. Regular readers of this blog will already know that, but I wanted to reiterate it in case you’re new. I’ve had Corpse Flower on my shelf for awhile, the lovely people at Dundurn sent it to me quite a few months ago, and I’m embarrassed to say I only got it around to it now. Although that’s probably a good thing, because it’s release date of Dec. 14 is still a few days off. Am I allowed to be posting this review early? I’ll find out soon enough!
A little bit of history for ya: Before it was published, Corpse Flower won the Unhanged Arthur Award from the Crime Writers of Canada back in 2010. This is awarded to the best unpublished manuscript, so it’s a special kind of recognition for an author who hasn’t yet found a publisher for their work. Dundurn Press has first rights of refusal on that manuscript (most likely due to some sponsorship of the award, etc), and not surprisingly they scooped up this book shortly after it won. Although not a mind-astonishingly complicated story, it’s definitely fun, and ‘humerous mysteries’ are making a big come back in the book world. It’s a sub-genre that I particularly enjoy, and Corpse Flower is a great example of this kind of book done right.
The main character of this book, Bliss Moonbeam Cornwall (yes, that’s her real name), is perhaps one of my favourite characters that I’ve come across in awhile. Similar to reader’s attachment to Joanne Kilbourn of Gail Bowen’s famous series, Bliss is someone that I would look forward to reading more about for many future books to come. She’s got a foul mouth and a spunky attitude, but she’s an extremely hard worker and her disdain for her ‘weasel’ of an ex-husband is absolutely hilarious, so she won me over within the first few pages of the book. What’s unique about her is that she’s not even actively trying to solve a mystery, she just finds herself mixed up in some really strange situations which inevitably lead her to a) trouble b) creepy people and c) unbelievable and extremely enjoyable situations to read about. As I’ve said before, the protagonists of murder mysteries can either make or break a series or plot, and Gloria Ferris has struck a winner with Ms. Cornwall. On a side note, Ferris hails from my hometown of Guelph, so that’s reason enough to pick up this book.
It’s obvious that Ferris is dreaming up more books with Ms. Cornwall, because the subtitle of the book is “A Cornwall and Redfern Mystery”, which of course implies that these two characters are going to be teaming up to solve some mysteries in the future. This extremely obvious subtitle leads me to my only problem that I had with the book. It’s a minor one, but I wouldn’t be a true reviewer if I didn’t mention this. One plot point that’s threaded throughout the narrative is the suggestion that Redfern is a crooked cop, which is supposed to be a problem for Bliss, because it’s obvious to everyone around them that they’re sweet on each other. However, the fact that Bliss overheard him talking to some shady characters in a strange way convinces her that he’s double-dealing and can’t be trusted. This two-faced personality is so obviously him acting undercover that it doesn’t for one minute convince the reader that Bliss is right, especially because the front cover basically confirms that he will be featured in every book thereafter. If any author is reading this blog, take note: never underestimate your reader, especially when weaving a mystery together. If I can already guess which characters are bad and which are good, you’re not making things challenging enough!