But Canada has just as interesting a history as the U.S. does, and in many ways they are linked. That's why it's been so interesting to read about the period of history that I came of age in through Canadian eyes. Specifically through the eyes of one Constable Eddie Dougherty, who makes his second appearance in this book. I reviewed Black Rock over at Escape Into Life a while ago, but you don't necessarily have to read it first. There are references in this book to some of its incidents, but I don't think they are particularly of a spoilerish quality.
As was the case in Black Rock, the story starts off with a historical event, a tragic nightclub fire in Montreal that killed 37 people. Eddie Dougherty, having done a stint with the Morality Squad which didn't work out, is back to driving a squad car, and so answers a call that takes him right to the scene of the carnage.
The year is 1972, and as McFetridge tells us in an afterword, this horrific fire was eclipsed by an event that consumed Canadian consciousness--a hockey match between the Canadians and the Soviets, which Canada initially saw as an easy win. Montreal also knew that it would be hosting the Olympics in 1976, so the hostage situation at the Munich Olympics that unfolds in the background of the novel is not simply a tragedy watched from afar. And on top of all this, there's a murder right on Dougherty's turf.
This death takes Dougherty into another area of Canada's history, that of Americans fleeing the draft. As Dougherty tries to decide what he thinks about war resistance, he becomes involved with a woman in the movement, and they sidle up warily to each other. The very fact that they find themselves fraternizing is a symptom of a larger phenomenon--whatever cohesiveness the counterculture had is now fracturing and people are going their own way again. "Self-actualization" is a key term.
I'm struck as I was reading Black Rock with the similarities to Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy series, in which a young policeman also remains in a police force where he's something of an anomaly. Eddie Dougherty isn't as cynical as Duffy is, yet. But finding that he doesn't progress up the ranks as he thinks he should and not understanding why, he may headed on a similar journey. I look forward to the next book in the series to find out.