Leo Desroches is a gambling addict. He's lost his family, jobs, his home. With the help of a friend Leo gave his start to in the newspaper business, Leo gets a second change. Now he's working at an Edmonton newspaper and he catches a lucky break. A police detective gives Leo an inside scoop on a murder investigation because he happened to be the first on the scene. His lucky break turns into a huge opportunity for him, as well as a challenge he never saw coming.
FALL FROM GRACE is quite different from any investigative journalist mystery I've read before. The book has a very dark, somber tone, which is not unusual, but the protagonist is flawed in ways that may not be redeemable. There are several loose ends that Arthurson is obviously going to pick up in subsequent books in the series, so I'm very curious to see where he takes Desroches.
One of the most fascinating themes of the novel revolves around the idea of identity. Desroches is the son of a Cree mother and French-Canadian father. His physical appearance hides his native ancestry, and Desroches has made no effort to expose it. When he's chosen to be a liaison between the newspaper and the native council, he has to face this identity.
His heritage is not the only element of his identity Desroches denies. He's a gambling addict and while he hasn't set foot in a casino, he also hasn't dealt with the addiction. He's robbing banks to get his fix instead. You just have to chuckle at a character who says, "I robbed my first bank by mistake."
The plot of FALL FROM GRACE is well constructed, with strong twists that keep the reader on his/her toes. The social issues that help compose the plot are substantive and intriguing, especially for a non-Canadian. Arthurson could have scaled back the use of industry jargon, as he then seemed to be explaining a lot that muddied up the flow of the narrative.
FALL FROM GRACE is an intriguing debut. I'll be watching for the return of Leo Desroches to see just where Arthurson takes him next.
FALL FROM GRACE is available in hardcover from Forge Books (ISBN: 978-0-7653-2417-7).