RogerBW's Blog

Murder on the Run, Medora Sale 04 September 2019

1986 police procedural, first in the John Sanders/Harriet Jeffries series. In Toronto, someone is raping and murdering joggers; but Detective Inspector John Sanders thinks the latest victim doesn't completely fit the pattern.

Although the series is known as Sanders/Jeffries, in this first volume Jeffries makes no appearance. Rather, Sanders and his partner Dubinsky are the heroes here, and while Sanders has an ex-wife and a new girlfriend they don't play a great part in the story (though the girlfriend is briefly kidnapped).

While I don't know Toronto at all well, the descriptions seem atmospheric, and the ravine system makes up an important element of the story. The people work well too… but there are an awful lot of them, many of whom get narrative time, and this includes the murderer, which is a pattern I don't favour; as a mystery reader I'd rather have the same information the police have. There's a great deal going on, and unravelling one particular victim's complicated life seems as though it wouldn't be the sort of thing there'd be time for in a high-profile serial murder investigation, but Sale manages to make it fit together even if there's a bit too much coincidence towards the end. There isn't much crime-solving for the reader to do, and I only realised one particular question was meant to be a challenge to the reader – rather than just another "anyone in the city could have done it" in the manner of McBain's Cop Hater – when Sanders explained how he'd worked it out.

It's distinctly less cosy than the short story in Christmas Stalkings that introduced me to the series, and filled with unpleasant people, but well-written and highly enjoyable nonetheless.

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See also:
Cop Hater, Ed McBain
Christmas Stalkings, Charlotte Macleod

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