Fall from Grace

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Fall from Grace from Wayne Arthurson marks the debut of Leo Desroches, one of the most unusual amateur detectives ever to appear in Canada or points south, this fast-paced, enthralling mystery is the story of a man who had everything, lost it all, and is trying to get it back.

Leo Desroches doesn't look like a native, but his mother was Cree, and he understands the problems of indigenous Canadians of the First Nations. Which is probably why the Edmonton newspaper decides he ...

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Fall from Grace from Wayne Arthurson marks the debut of Leo Desroches, one of the most unusual amateur detectives ever to appear in Canada or points south, this fast-paced, enthralling mystery is the story of a man who had everything, lost it all, and is trying to get it back.

Leo Desroches doesn't look like a native, but his mother was Cree, and he understands the problems of indigenous Canadians of the First Nations. Which is probably why the Edmonton newspaper decides he should be their Aboriginal Issues reporter. He has his own issues to deal with: the compulsive gambling that cost him his wife and children and the risk-taking that threatens to derail him every time he starts to get his life back together. But during a newspaper strike, Leo caught a break, getting hired as a reporter. Since then, he's managed to resist the urge to gamble. But he still hasn't stopped taking risks....

When he's assigned to cover the murder of a young native prostitute, it's just one more article...until the cop in charge lets him view the corpse, something the Edmonton police never do. Leo's article starts a chain of events that leads him to a much, much bigger story, one that could bring down the entire police department...if it doesn't get him killed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The way Arthurson blends disparate elements together in his winning debut augurs well for future efforts. Here's hoping Arthurson brings the troubled Leo Desroches back for an encore, and soon.
bestselling author of the Robin Hudson mysteries Sparkle Hayter

Wise and compassionate, vivid and witty, Leo is the kind of character you feel you've known a long time, and Wayne Arthurson is a writer to watch. What a great read. I couldn't put it down.

"This is a genre-bender, its twists all the more startling for being unexpected."
Publishers Weekly
In Canadian journalist Arthurson's impressive first novel, journalist Leo Desroches, a recovering compulsive gambler whose life and career were nearly destroyed by his addictions, receives unprecedented access to the body of Grace Cardinal, a young Native prostitute found in a cold Alberta field. Half Native himself, Leo uses the opportunity to publicize what would otherwise be a quickly forgotten murder. It soon becomes clear that the police have missed a serial killer who targets marginalized women whose murders won't attract determined investigation. When the trail points directly at the Edmonton Police Service, Leo finds himself kidnapped by rogue cops and taken on a trip that may prove his very last. Arthurson demonstrates a fine sense of place and casts a sympathetic but informed eye on Edmonton's varied cultures. Only one detail—the manner in which Leo deals with his need for thrills—rings false in an otherwise exceptional debut. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Edmonton, Alberta, reporter Leo Desroches gets the inside scoop on the dead body story handed to him, but after that he fights hard for every clue. The victim—a local prostitute of Native heritage—was strangled and dumped, and not a lot more is known. Leo, a deeply flawed, recovering gambling addict, questions the system when he realizes a serial killer has been knocking off prostitutes and disposing of them for at least 20 years in fields around the region. Seemingly, no one in law enforcement has cared enough to investigate a possible pattern. As Leo obsesses about the victims, grapples with his own Native heritage, and interviews sources, his own life is threatened more than once. Arthurson slowly pulls in all the elements to conjure the writing of a feature story, but his pace picks up exponentially, and this makes for a very satisfying debut. Leo's gambling addiction is alive and well, which adds yet another unsettling element. VERDICT Think Nancy Pickard for region and atmosphere, Brad Parks for journalism, and Timothy Hallinan for social concerns and attitude. Highly recommended.
Kirkus Reviews

Newspaper gumshoe yarn from the author ofFinal Season(2002).

Fighting compulsive gambling and consequent mental problems, estrangement from his wife and children and homelessness, Leo Desroches—half Cree, half French-Canadian—has dragged himself off the streets and into the newsroom of a busy Edmonton daily newspaper. When Leo's first on the scene when a corpse is found in a field outside the city, a sympathetic detective gives him unprecedented access to the crime-scene tent, and his scoop is that the victim was a young Native prostitute. Unfortunately, Leo is still a compulsive gambler and robs banks to feed his addiction—all it takes is a note passed to the teller and a look of determination. The police drag their feet over the case, yet Leo learns from the victim's friends that girls all avoid a yellow pickup. More, Leo finds a series of similar crimes going back decades, but again the police show no interest. The paper's editor, whom Leo once hired, gives Leo the job of Aboriginal Issues reporter, an assignment he accepts reluctantly, though it does help him reconnect with his Cree roots. Then a retired detective, Mike Gardiner, gives Leo an old, stolen file whose contents threaten to expose wrongdoing among swaths of the Edmonton Police Service's brass. Regrettably, watching Leo piece his life back together is far more rewarding than observing his fitful and inexpert investigations of typical crimes where motives are obvious, evidence lacking and suspects in short supply.

A promising protagonist is marred by tepid sleuthing and an ending that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765324191
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 8/7/2012
  • Series: Leo Desroches Mysteries Series, #1
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,173,468
  • Product dimensions: 5.65 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

WAYNE ARTHURSON, like his protagonist Leo Desroches, is the son of Cree and French Canadian parents. He has worked as a newspaper reporter, a drummer in a rock band, and as a freelance journalist. He was born in and lives in Edmonton, Canada with his wife and child. Fall from Grace is his first mystery novel. The sequel, A Killing Winter, has just been published.

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Read an Excerpt


“Do you want to see the body?”
It was not an unusual question; I’ve been asked it before, and I will probably be asked it again. But the key question at the moment was whether to accept the offer this time or to turn around and just walk away.
We stood at the edge of a farmer’s field, squinting even though it was overcast. That’s part of life on the Prairies. When the sky is more than two-thirds of your existence, there’s no choice but to squint, even on an overcast day. At this time of year, the whole world was gray. The leaves had turned and fallen to the ground long ago and the golden stalks of grain had been harvested weeks before, leaving behind stubby shoots. The cleansing white of the first snow could come sometime tonight or around Christmas, who knew? If you’re betting your life savings on the issue, save your cash and buy a lottery ticket. The odds are better, although Halloween is sometimes a safe choice for the first day of winter. Nothing like little kids walking the streets in search of candy to bring out Old Man Winter and all his accoutrements.
The only bit of color in our vicinity was the bright orange crime scene tent. Underneath that lay the body in question. The cop who had asked the question gestured toward the tent with his chin, keeping his hands in his pockets because like most of us this time of year, he didn’t think it was cold enough for gloves. But when he stepped outside he realized his mistake. Of course, he could have gone back into the house to get them, but that would have entailed several minutes of searching through a drawer or box or cupboard of winter clothing that had been forgotten since sometime last spring.
And admitting that this collection of clothing still exists is a major psychological step in the annual life of a Western Canadian, at least for those of us who live on the Prairies. Denial plays a major role in this particular change of seasons. And for the cop to go back into his house to retrieve a pair of gloves and accept that winter was on its way was tantamount to admitting that he was an alcoholic or that his marriage was finally over and it was time to move on. Even so, if you were looking for something to bet your life’s savings on, then bet that this cop would have his gloves tomorrow and would keep them with him till some time around April, maybe even May, depending on what kind of winter was awaiting us this year.
“Come on,” he said with a grin. “You got a few minutes before the rest of your gang shows up, so I’m offering you an exclusive.”
I looked at him and sighed. “The last time you let me look at a body, Detective Whitford, I … Well, let’s just say it’s something I really don’t want to remember, but am unable to forget.”
“This one’s different,” he said with a shrug. I shot him a quick look of disbelief.
“I mean it,” he quickly added. “Honestly. Last time you were a suspect of sorts, and in order to confirm or deny your involvement I had to forgo giving you any warning of the condition of the body. Your reaction showed that you were not involved and in the end it all worked out, did it not?”
“Maybe for you, but not for me. It’s a visual image I could have done without.”
“Okay, although I won’t apologize for what I did, I am sorry that you had to go through it,” he said, pulling a hand out of his jacket pocket and placing it on my shoulder. “Consider this offer as my way to make it up to you.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said with a cruel laugh. “You want to make up for showing me a dead body by offering to show me another dead body? I thought I was the one with mental problems but you are something else.”
“Listen, Leo,” he said, enunciating his words to make a point. “This one is different, I promise you. And this time, you are not a suspect; you’re only a journalist out here on a story. And at the moment, you’re the only journalist. But there will be others, and the offer I’m making now will expire the instant I see one of their vehicles come over the horizon. You can’t tell me that it won’t make your story better if you got a quick look at the body.”
I sighed. He was right. The other lemmings were no doubt only a few minutes behind me and we would all have the same story of an unknown dead body in a field, with the photos all showing the same orange crime scene tent in the distance. The only way to make my story stand out, even from the moving pictures and early-supper deadlines of the TV stations, would be to accept Whitford’s offer, step into that tent, and get an up-close and personal view of the body. I looked back at Whitford. He was sporting a smile that intimated he had read every thought that had run through my head.
“Okay, you got me,” I said, shaking my head.
“Good.” He nodded, turned, and walked toward the tent. I followed, looking away from the orange tent, trying to brace myself for what was inside. I took in the open barrenness of the landscape and wondered what compelled people, any kind of people, to settle in a place where the prominent colors were brown, gray, and white; where the growing season was barely one quarter of the year; and the length and breadth of the land was dwarfed by the immensity of the sky. The eternally optimistic, that’s who, because only people with a totally optimistic worldview would look at this seemingly dead countryside and figure that it would be a great place to build a life, start a family, and/or create a civilization.
Then again, maybe they were seduced by the seemingly constant sunlight. This day may have been overcast, but that was an anomaly. For the most part, sunshine was the norm, even during those bitterly cold days when the light lasted less than the average workday and the cold could kill you if you weren’t prepared. But maybe they knew that; maybe they understood that even in the dead of winter, there would be light, yes, diffused to a constant orange glow because of the sharp angle of the sun, but light nevertheless. And that was enough to stay.
Since I was a descendant of those people, including those original settlers, those first idealists who crossed the Bering Strait more than twenty thousand years ago in search of a better world and food, I couldn’t just turn off those optimistic genes. I wouldn’t enjoy looking at the body in the tent, but at the very least I’d probably be the only journalist who would get a confirmation of race and gender. Not much of a scoop, but a scoop all the same. And back at the paper, that would earn me the grudging respect of my fellow reporters and editors. But only till the deadline passed. Then we would be all back on the same page.


Copyright © 2011 by Wayne Arthurson

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 18, 2011

    Awesome hard boiled action

    You know how, in a certain type of (often-British) mystery, your protagonist has some big, self-destructive flaw? He drinks too much, he has intimacy issues, he's all hung up over his lost love or he's Sherlock Holmes and shoots heroin? It's sort of grittily romantic, if you have that thing where you sometimes imagine taking people home, feeding them soup and kindly sorting out their lives?

    Yeah. So Wayne Arthurson has raised the bar on this particular literary convention. The sport isn't even high jump anymore... he's taken it into the realm of pole vaulting.

    In Fall from Grace we meet Leo Desroches, a guy so spectacularly screwed up he makes Cracker seem cuddly and functional.

    Leo's a journalist and a full-time mess on legs. He's been in jail, he's been homeless, and even though he currently has a job, it's in Edmonton. <em>(Okay, Edmonton, sorry for the swipe. Where was I? Ohhh... balmy balmy Vancouver.)</em> He has a regular gig at a local paper and a place to live, but he's also a howling black hole of gambling addiction and bad choices, and he's found a devilishly inventive and thoroughly shocking way to keep himself out of the casinos.

    When he is first on scene at a murder, Leo gets a chance to put his career back on track. And since there are two Leos--the Gambler, and the earnest guy who wants to put his life together and maybe even reboot a relationship with his kids--he makes the most of it, turning one anonymous murder victim into front page news. As he digs deeper, of course, it turns out that poor Ruby Cardinal is hardly the first strangled sex-trade worker of Aboriginal descent to turn up in an area wheat field. The police are officially unaware of the trend, but they're also more than a little sensitive about the suggestion that there may be a serial killer in the city.

    Which is great for Leo, because what self-destructive person wouldn't want to antagonize the hometown police?

    Leo's investigation brings him all the danger his self-loathing side could hope for and then some. Because Fall from Grace doesn't pretend to be gritty--it embodies grit. It's rough-edged and scary, a fascinating crime novel about a guy who can't quite surrender to his own darkness, even as he continually, compulsively sets himself up to lose every single thing he's got.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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