In the third novel of this engaging series, Joanne Kilbourn has moved back to Regina to establish a home for her new daughter Taylor. As ever, a strong element of family ties pervades this novel, as Jo’s eldest daughter Mieka has returned to live with Jo while she establishes a second branch of her Saskatoon catering business. Mieka’s wedding is looming, so Jo is both concerned with the arrangements, and with her worries about Mieka, who has given up her college degree course to start her business.
A couple of coincidences kick-start the mystery plot. First, Mieka finds the murdered body of her temporary cleaner in a garbage can behind the city hall site of her business. Then, an unwelcome visitor turns up: a manipulative woman called Christy who was engaged to Peter, Jo’s eldest son. The young couple had broken up and Peter is currently away working, but Christy tells Jo that they have now got back together again and that Peter has invited her to Mieka’s engagement party weekend at her future in-laws’ house. Reluctantly, Jo includes Christy in the trip to the party, slowly realising the extent to which Christy is obsessed with her. Christy is also abruptly rude about the dead girl, upsetting Jo by her lack of sympathy. The second coincidence arrives in the form of the next murder victim.
Jo is determined to uncover some truths about the blight that seems to be hanging over her family. There is also some good news, though, as an old friend invites her to be a panellist on a TV show about Canadian politics. One of the other participants, on a different side of the ideological fence, is Keith, the uncle of Meika’s fiance Greg. Jo becomes romantically interested in Keith.
Although the main framework of the novel concerns Jo’s family relationships and domestic arrangements, there is a strong undercurrent of social tragedy underlying events, which gradually builds to a tense climax when Jo and little Taylor are on a lakeside holiday.
The Wandering Soul Murders is a compelling, easy read: the account of Jo and her family’s life carries the reader along. The darker themes are handled well on an emotional level, but perhaps not so strongly in terms of plot. I do recommend this series: I’ve now read the first three books and shall definitely read more.
I bought this book.
Other reviews of The Wandering Soul Murders: Kirkus reviews and Books in Canada. The book has also been made into a TV film, which from the IMDB plot summary differs in some central respects from the book.
Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan: posts about Gail Bowen and her books.