ECW Press, Toronto, Hardback 240 pages $24.95 / PDF or ebook $9.95
If you like your villains corrupt and corrosive, replete with greed and unremitting ambition, action tumbling through scenes like a continual car chase spilling off a movie screen, smart, sassy and independent female characters, and male heroes both tough and tender, read this book.
Cain’s novel Cherry Beach Express explodes with masculine energy, providing the kind of satisfaction from page one that makes you return to the story with happy anticipation.
Cain’s theme hits the heart, but rather than capitalize directly on a reader’s natural thrum of disgust, he treats pedophilia, but not pedophiles, with respect, rendering what might have been a cheap shot into underlying motivation for his protagonists dilemma. In doing so, he offers readers the advance satisfaction of knowing his fictional perp has already met a horrible end, even if that death tosses the life of Nastos, our hero, into chaos. Thus the story circles around Detective Nastos and how he will undo the injustice served upon him.
Cain clearly sends up some male characters as losers by putting in their mouths the kind of sexism that rings like old commercials: empty, stupid and irritating. With another writer, this might come off flat but with Cain, the language of sexism serves to profile these men with small, sloping foreheads and slouching shoulders: Neanderthals. The image offered by these men satisfies the feminist in a reader, but avoids resolving into caricature through the very dangerous power these characters wield in the story.
For example, Cain demonstrates the narcissistic, psychopathic thrill his character North gets as he anticipates the kind of power violent, forced sex will yield to him. Cain’s protagonist Nastos, on the other hand reveals the qualities of a true man: protective, tender, and as tough as men get.
It is to Cain’s credit that none of the scenes in the book resolve in gratuitous violence, but careen just closely enough to provide an edge.
Finally, Cain includes strong, smart female characters, whose contribution anchors the story’s action and who meet danger with intelligence. These are women you’d like to know.
The ending of this inclusive “who dun it" surprises, as it should. But what surprises and delights all the way through the novel is the humor. Cain’s ability with irony, his sense of the off-kilter humor that emerges under the sort of extreme tension his characters encounter, their smart-mouthing retorts in less intense moments, affords the reader continual pleasure in reading their unexpected, but totally believable language.
If you enjoy crime novels, this is a must for your summer reading.
Purchase Cherry Beach Express here. Information about submitting to ECW here. Quick Brown Fox welcomes book reviews and other book-related articles. Guidelines here.
Charlene Jones has been a practicing psychotherapist and meditation teacher for thirteen years. In addition, Charlene writes for the Musselman’s Lake Residents Association website (here), is the Musselman Lake Correspondent for the Stouffville Free Press, and is at work on her first novel. She has two books of poetry to her credit, as well as several individual poems published in many North American magazines.
Quick Brown Fox welcomes book reviews and other book-related articles. Guidelines here.
See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton, St. Catharines, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Peterborough, Kingston, Orangeville, Barrie, Sudbury, Gravenhurst, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.