Introduction

To date, my books have received excellent reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal (both starred), the Globe and Mail, Quill and Quire, the Hamilton Spectator, NOW Magazine, Sherbrooke Record and many other publications, as well as web-based critics. I’ve also had great endorsements from best-selling authors like Linwood Barclay, Deon Meyer, Jose Latour and Sean Chercover. To read a full review, just click on any excerpt below. If you’ve read and enjoyed either book, don’t be shy about posting your own review on amazon.ca, amazon.com, chapters.ca or other websites. They help spread the word to other readers.

The reviews are posted chronologically, so the most recent are for Miss Montreal. Scroll further down if you want to read reviews of Boston Cream, High Chicago and Buffalo Jump.

Reviews

Don Graves

Hamilton Spectator

“Story, action and humour combine seamlessly into a great summer read”

Just what the summer ordered: Miss Montreal, a fourth Jonah Geller adventure set in that colourful city, where the word can mean beautiful, dangerous and scandalous … or all three. Just the place for the private investigator, his partner, former hit man Dante Ryan, and a cast of drug and gun runners, distorted politicians and a cultural richness that leaves you in awe of how such beauty and corruption can live side by side.

Geller and Ryan are in Montreal to investigate the murder of an old friend. The police have hit a dead end right at election time and the scene turns frantic with tension, threats and deathly religious fanatics. Explosive episodes escalate the pace to a the sort of conclusion fans of author Howard Shrier expect.

Miss Montreal
is a stellar reason why Shrier is an award-winning author. Story, action and humour combine seamlessly into a great summer read.

Sarah Lolley

Montreal Review of Books

“Keep writing books like this, Howard”

Readers who enjoy hardboiled detective novels with expert pacing and rich physical details will delight in Miss Montreal, the fourth from Toronto-based novelist Shrier. Those who also hold the city of Montreal dear – potholes and all – will be in heaven.

The story begins in late June. Toronto-based private investigator Jonah Geller has been hired to probe a murder case on which the Montreal police can’t – or won’t – make progress. “Slammin’” Sammy Adler, a widely read columnist at Montreal Moment magazine, has been found beaten to death, a Star of David carved into his chest. Is it a random act of anti-Semitism? Was it a targeted crime? Sammy’s grandfather, widowed and dying, wants answers and hires Jonah to get them.

Jonah takes his work seriously, but this case has an added personal dimension: he knew Sammy, albeit decades ago. When the two boys attended summer camp together, Jonah took the gawky Sammy under his wing and coached him on what became a “slammin’” baseball swing.

Equipped with high-tech surveillance gear, plenty of ammunition, and a dry sense of humour, Jonah and his sidekick, a gun-loving bruiser called Dante Ryan (Jonah’s regular partner Jenn is recovering from something that happened in a previous book), zoom up the 401 to Montreal and are immediately immersed in the city’s charms: gorgeous women, smug cops, crowded terrasses, French-language stalwarts, and rutted roads. As they dig into the stories Sammy was researching at the time of his death, they uncover a web of crime, violence, xenophobia, political ambition, and long-buried family secrets.

Howard Shrier is a two-time Arthur Ellis Award winner and it’s easy to see why. Miss Montreal offers exciting action sequences, realistic dialogue, wry wit, an airtight plot that unfolds with perfect pacing, and bedroom scenes that are sexy without being smutty. His characters are so real that this reviewer felt genuine anxiety over using the term “side- kick” in the previous paragraph lest the goon read it and take offense.

But Montrealers may find that the most impressive part of the book is Shrier’s portrayal of their city. The description of Montreal from the perspective of an outsider – our overabundance of Saint-named streets, our aggressive driving – is super. The explanations of how heavily accented French is pronounced (“boîtes – boxes – pronounced bwytes. Place sounded like plowce”) are bang on. The references to recent events, including chunks of concrete falling from overpasses and the ongoing Charbonneau investigation, are apt. And the irritation that Jonas and Dante feel when faced with characters who are staunchly anti-English is palpable. The scene in which a meathead French-Canadian cop refuses to speak with Jonas and Dante in English (Dante retaliates by speaking Italian, including calling the cop a few choice names that cannot be reprinted here) is deliciously satisfying to any Montrealer who is frustrated by the recent resurgence of linguistic prejudice in the province.

The only place the story drags is in the first few chapters when Shrier refers to events that occurred in his previous novels. But this is a necessary part of writing a detective series. New readers must be given some context and old readers must be rewarded for coming back to the trough, and the combination of the two makes for uneven storytelling.

In the acknowledgement, Shrier states, “writing crime fiction is a dream come true.” Keep writing books like this, Howard, and the pleasure will be all ours

Joan Barfoot

London Free Press

“Howard Shrier does it right”

Take a smart, capable private investigator who’s tough but no superhero, team him with an amusingly bitter, anarchic sidekick with a dark history and a considerable assortment of guns, and you have Jonah Geller and his relatively new buddy Dante Ryan.

You also have the fourth in Howard Shrier’s series of crime novels featuring Geller, and the best and liveliest so far.

Shrier, a Montreal native and former journalist there, who now lives in Toronto, brings both cities and his old profession into Miss Montreal, along with an array of current tensions and nearly-up-to-the-minute concerns.
Happily back in Canada after a brutal U.S. case, Geller is summoned to the Toronto bedside of a wealthy, dying old man who wants him to look into the beating death of his grandson in Montreal. The body of Sammy Adler, a very popular newspaper columnist and feature writer, was found in a part of town largely populated by Muslims, with a star of David carved into his chest. The assumptions of a hate crime are obvious, the tensions volatile.

The awkward kid Sammy turned into a popular columnist writing serious satire, as well as doing investigative features and profiles of Montreal’s famous and, occasionally, infamous. And now he’s a victim of murder.
When they get into his work files, Jonah and Dante find he’s been building material on a couple of stories, including a look at a father-daughter team of politicians working hard to build support for their Quebec-first, anti-immigrant movement.

He has also been interviewing a Muslim family, intending to write a piece demonstrating that the case of a father who burned a building with his daughters inside, in a so-called “honour” killing, was an aberration and affront to people living with real honor in their faith.

Yet another file, labelled “Miss Montreal”, is empty, and the men can find no hints to its meaning.

As they trace Sammy’s professional and personal lives, they obviously have to check out the area where his body was found. In the course of their explorings, they encounter not only the shopkeeper brother and sister of the Muslim family Adler was to profile, but fellows with, apparently, more sinister interests.

As a Jew, Jonah Geller may be viewed in those neighborhoods with some wariness, but he’s also keenly alert to the hatred and discrimination against previous generations of immigrants to Quebec, most notably Jews. It’s a context that leans him much closer to the dilemmas of Muslims, and much farther from the Quebec-first party and its father-daughter leaders stirring up opposition to anyone not deemed pure laine.

Crime novels featuring able, sympathetic investigator bonded with rough-and-tumble, harder-edged buddy constitute a familiar formula, but it’s a formula that, done right, can be winningly fun to read. In Miss Montreal, Howard Shrier does it right — and does so thoughtfully, in the context of some important, current issues while he’s about it.

Joan Barfoot is a novelist living in London.

Jim Napier

January Magazine

“Maturing as one of recent crime fiction’s shining stars”

With three cracking good novels already under his belt, Canadian author Howard Shrier has delivered a fourth that will not disappoint his many fans. His debut novel, Buffalo Jump, garnered an Arthur Ellis Award in 2008, and a year later he repeated that achievement with Jump’s sequel, High Chicago. Born and reared in Montreal, Quebec, Shrier began his career as a crime reporter for the Montreal Star in 1979. Maturing as one of recent crime fiction’s shining stars, his latest effort, Miss Montreal, takes him back to the place of his youth for a story that will resonate with anyone who knows the city, and will earn Shrier many new followers.

Sammy Adler was not a natural athlete: as a 12-year-old at camp, he was the bane of every baseball coach, his peers scrambling to fill the lineup with other boys. But another camp kid, Jonah Geller, took Sammy under his wing, coaching him in the proper batting stance, how to read a pitcher, the proper swing. Sammy tried to take it all in and adjust his game, but there’s a limit to what one person can teach another. Sammy’s seminal moment came when he hit a line drive into the first baseman’s glove for the game-ending out.

By all rights, Sammy should have been consigned to the Hall of Shame, the subject of cruel jokes that would follow him for the rest of his life. But somehow all of that doesn’t matter when, decades later, Jonah Geller--now a private eye working out of Toronto--suddenly receives a call from Sammy’s grandfather, Arthur Moscoe, telling him that Sammy is dead. He’s been bludgeoned to death, a Star of David carved into his chest.

So opens Miss Montreal, a real corker of a tale.

Although they’d drifted out of touch over the years, Jonah Geller was Sammy’s closest childhood friend. The 83-year-old Moscoe, dying of cancer and unconvinced that Montreal’s finest will bring Sammy’s killers to book, now hires Jonah to investigate Sammy’s murder. Because Jonah can’t turn for help to his usual partner, Jenn Raudsepp--who remains in Toronto, recovering from bullet wounds suffered during their previous case--he instead calls in Dante Ryan, a reformed hit man who travels from Boston to give him a hand. Volatile at the best of times, Ryan is especially unpredictable as he tries to cope with his wife having left him and taken their son with her; but he shows up, bringing with him a small arsenal of weapons and an attitude to match.

The police probe into Sammy’s death is not helped by the fact that one of the detectives on the case is a staunch Francophone who refuses to cooperate with Jonah. As a journalist, Sammy had made his share of enemies. Recently, he’d been working on two stories: the first one about how Afghan immigrants were adapting to Quebec. Jonah questions a young Afghan woman Sammy had interviewed for his story, but she’s evasive. Jonah and Dante leave her company having learned little. When they meet her again, this time away from her father’s shop, they find that they’re being tailed by a couple of Syrian thugs.

The second story Sammy was pursuing focused on an influential right-wing nationalist politician, Laurent Lortie, who seeks to keep Quebec for the Quebeqois--the French-speaking people who comprise the historical core of the province, and who feel that their language and culture are being threatened by the wave of immigrants. That tension dates from the original conflict between the two founding peoples, the French and the English, and persists even 200 years later. Lately, though, the tensions have been ramping up, with threats, beatings and fire-bombings.

How might Sammy’s two story leads have figured into his death? Jonah and Dante must weave their way through the troubled waters of multiethnic Montreal, aided only by a detective who hates Anglos, to thwart a plot with explosive consequences.

With its evocative back-story about two adolescent boys struggling to fit in with summer camp life, Miss Montreal had me hooked from the start. Shrier deftly sets up the reader for the poignant news of Sammy’s demise, and uses that hook to lead us effortlessly into an atmospheric tale that captures glimpses of Jewish Montreal in the 1950s and carries us forward to the changing face of the city today. As James Lee Burke does with Dave Robicheaux and Cletus Purcel, Shrier offers up a good cop/bad cop team in Jonah Geller and Dante Ryan. He combines that here with a topical plot full of twists and virtually nonstop action. All in all, Miss Montreal is the strongest entry in an already very strong series, and leaves this reader looking forward to Jonah Geller’s next outing. ◊

-- Jim Napier is a crime-fiction reviewer based in Quebec. His book reviews and author interviews have been featured in several Canadian papers as well as on such websites as Spinetingler Magazine, The Rap Sheet, Shots, Reviewing the Evidence and Type M for Murder. Napier also has an award-winning crime-fiction site, Deadly Diversions.

Shlomo Schwartzberg

criticsatlarge.ca

“One of the finest mystery writers extant”

Jonah Geller is back in Howard Shrier’s Miss Montreal , the fourth book in his series chronicling the adventures of the determined Toronto private eye.

Over four novels, including Buffalo Jump (2008), High Chicago (2009), Boston Cream (2012) and now Miss Montreal (2013), Jonah has gone from working for a security agency as a PI to running his own private investigative business, World Repairs, with partner Jenn Raudsepp. (World Repairs is the English term for the Hebrew phrase Tikkun Olam, a Jewish mandate to repair the world and make it a better place by doing good deeds. Or as Shrier puts it, “Jonah Geller: repairing the world, one asshole at a time.")

Unlike other Jewish detectives, such as fellow Torontonian Howard Engel’s Benny Cooperman, in a series set in small town Ontario and a bit lighter in tone or Harry Kemelman’s low key Rabbi David Small books, Jonah is a tough guy: ex-Israeli army, with an exterior that doesn’t countenance any belligerence, including dealing effectively with anti-Semitism, evident in Buffalo Jump when he dispatched a bigot aboard a Toronto streetcar. He’s also something of a tragic figure, saddened by what he witnesses around him and more and more forced into situations where he has had to use violence, something he would rather have put behind him after a calamitous army experience in Israel.

Shrier’s books are consistent in tone and depth, smartly written mysteries that rarely telegraph where they’re going and offer up some interesting regular characters, including openly gay Raudsepp and Dante Ryan, a hit man with a conscience. (I know Dante sounds like a cliché but in Shrier’s skilled hands, he’s not.) Shrier, who is a two-time winner of the prestigious Arthur Ellis award for excellence in crime fiction (Buffalo Jump won for Best First Novel of 2008; High Chicago for Best Novel of 2009), also brings his book’s settings, the cities where their stories largely unfold, to vivid life. They range from a down-at-its-heels Buffalo, whose glory days, if they ever existed, are behind it, to confident and corrupt Chicago to gentler Boston, riven by racial and religious currents as well as differing police jurisdictions.

Miss Montreal, which begins with Jonah investigating the death of a Montreal newspaper columnist whom he knew from summer camp when they were both twelve, deftly focuses on Canada’s most unique city, dealing with its perpetual nationalistic French-English divide, current immigration concerns including integrating a sometimes hostile Muslim population as well as hearkening back to the city’s storied past, which was both wide open, in terms of illicit entertainment, and conservative in its social mores. (Shrier, now 56 years-old, began his writing career in 1979 as a crime reporter for the sadly defunct Montreal Star so he knows whereof he writes.) It’s another ambitious but successful book, proof positive that Shrier is one of the finest mystery writers extant. 

Joann Alberstat

Halifax Chronicle Herald

“Smart, funny and contemporary”

It’s a good thing PI Jonah Geller has landed a case in Canada. A slew of recent probes have taken him to the United States, where he’d likely have trouble getting across the border again.

This time, the Toronto sleuth is hired by the grandfather of a man recently found beaten to death in Montreal. The police have no leads, but Geller knew the victim when they were boys attending the same Jewish summer camp.

Sammy Adler’s body was mutilated, and his grandfather suspects Muslim extremists. But Geller is keeping an open mind, especially since his boyhood friend was a magazine writer who ruffled feathers among the city’s powerful and elite.

Aided by a contract killer who drives a cool car and is trying to go straight, the gumshoe embarks on his first murder probe — one that takes Geller to a city known for being multicultural and a bastion of corruption and illegal activities.

Shrier’s first two works in this four-book series won Arthur Ellis Awards for top Canadian crime fiction.

Geller’s voice is smart, funny and contemporary. The young investigator is a fan of spy tools, and ancient history to him are the Blue Jays’ World Series wins. This summer read features fast cars, wisecracks and guns galore — what more could a reader ask for?

Sarah Weinman

National Post

“A smart mix of deduction, instinct and being in the worst place at the best possible time.”

What’s surprising about Howard Shrier’s newest novel featuring his recurring private detective, Jonah Geller, is that it took this long to send his PI to Montreal. The city, after all, has a colourful history of crime, one that hasn’t softened as much from the post-Second World War gangster heyday as one supposes. And Shrier, who previously dropped Geller into Buffalo, Chicago and Boston, knows Montreal well, from birth through early career as crime reporter for a now-defunct newspaper. But Shrier cooks up all sorts of trouble for Geller in Miss Montreal, that more than makes up for perceived lost time.

When an old childhood friend turns up dead in [Montreal], the victim’s grandfather hires Geller to do what the police can’t. Off Jonah goes—accompanied, not that reluctantly, by his friend, former hit man Dante Ryan—to investigate, mostly as a means to put the personal damage of previous cases behind him, encountering “strange dark places with too many guns.” The dead man, Sammy Adler, had morphed from a shy 12-year-old at Camp Arrowhead, where Geller knew him, to a gadabout muckraking columnist with a keen interest in city politics, immigration policies, bad romantic attachments and 60-year-old secrets. It doesn’t take Geller long to figure that one of those things, if not all of them, led to Adler’s demise.

Even more so than in previous instalments, the way Geller puts things together in Miss Montreal is a smart mix of deduction, instinct and being in the worst place at the best possible time. Jonah Geller can’t ever escape the darkness that haunts him, but there’s a sense—despite the dangers that befall him—that he has a better-than-even chance of making good with a bit of light.

Francois Lauzon

Montreal Gazette

“A great crime romp through our city”

Miss Montreal, the latest instalment in Howard Shrier’s Jonah Geller P.I. series, is a great crime romp through our city.

Shrier gets Montreal right. The grittiness, the contradictions, the corruption, the politics — even the potholes get a full airing.

At the outset, Toronto private investigator Geller reminisces about a childhood friend, Sammy Adler, a boy he met at summer camp the year he turned 12.

Shrier’s depiction hits home; a reflection on the summers of our youths, the eternal angst of middle teens. Adler is unco-ordinated, but with the camp championship on the line, Geller successfully makes a baseball player out of him, bestowing his protegé with the nickname Slammin’ Sammy.

Geller would not hear that name again, just another summer-camp friendship fading with time, until Slammin’ Sammy’s grandfather calls looking for help. Looking, more specifically, for an investigator who could explain exactly what had happened in Montreal to leave his grandson beaten to death with a Star of David carved in his chest.

Geller takes the case and drives down to Montreal with former contract killer Dante Ryan in tow. Jenn Raudsepp, Geller’s regular partner in their World Repairs private investigation agency, is on leave. Ryan is Geller’s muscle, with a penchant for Glocks. They arrive in Montreal with St. Jean Baptiste Day fast approaching.

Shrier’s familiarity with the journalistic milieu is apparent. While sifting through Slammin’ Sammy’s life, Geller learns that his childhood friend had covered the urban affairs beat for Montreal Moment magazine — and through discussions with Adler’s former editor-in-chief, Holly Napier, we soon realize that the late reporter may have made some enemies along the way.

Before his demise, Slammin’ Sammy was working on three files: a story about an Afghan family’s adjustment to life in Quebec; a profile of the appropriately named QAQ (Québec aux Québécois) leader Laurent Lortie, a right-winger none too welcoming to foreigners; and a third file with the enigmatic title of Miss Montreal.

The Miss Montreal file is empty, and the seductive name betrays little information.

Shrier, who studied at Concordia but now resides in Toronto, has not lost his handle on what makes Montreal and Quebec tick.

Lortie’s character, for example, adopts policy positions straight out of recent headlines and touches on recurring themes in Quebec society.

Shrier’s plot coalesces into a smorgasbord of smugglers, drug dealers, bombers and Quebec politics, with our Fête nationale thrown in for good measure.

From old departed haunts like Rockhead’s Paradise to Schwartz’s legendary deli, Shrier gives us many Montreal tableaus, past and present.

Miss Montreal is the fourth novel in the Jonah Geller P.I. series, the previous one being 2012’s Boston Cream. For more information on the writer, visit http://www.howardshrier.com

Jillian Bell

Chatelaine

“Vivid accounts of the city’s famous neighbourhoods and seedy underbelly”

When Jonah Geller last saw Sammy Adler, they were kids at summer camp. Years later, Jonah’s a private detective, and Sammy’s just been found dead in Montreal with a Star of David carved into his chest. With help from his crass sidekick Dante Ryan, Jonah sets out to solve his childhood friend’s murder – and uncovers a political family’s long-buried secret along the way.

This fast-paced mystery features both action movie-worthy car chases and a nuanced portrayal of tensions between Quebec’s cultural groups — with vivid accounts of the city’s famous neighbourhoods and seedy underbelly.

June, 2013

Yvonne Klein

reviewingtheevidence.com

“Everyone seems about to fly off the handle, with deadly consequences.”

When Jonah Geller and Sammy Adler were twelve years old, they met at summer camp, where Jonah taught Sammy how to swing a softball bat and tagged him with the semi-ironic nickname that followed him into adulthood - “Slammin’ Sammy.” Now, more than twenty years later, Sammy is dead, his body found in a back alley, beaten savagely and bearing a Star of David carved into his chest. The implication is that Muslim extremists are to blame.

Jonah is hired by Sammy’s dying grandfather to find out what actually happened and who was responsible for his grandson’s death. And so Geller travels to Montreal, accompanied by Dante Ryan, his contract-killer-turned-restauranteur sidekick. The two are recently returned from Boston, still hurting from the rather spectacular violence that ended that particular episode in Geller’s career as a PI.

At the end of Boston Cream, which details the events of that adventure, Jonah is physically damaged and mentally distressed. Although he is a man willing to take action when required, he does not see himself as a violent man. Rather, though he is far from religiously observant, he takes seriously the Hebrew injunction to repair the world, tikkun olam. His recent US cases have left him questioning whether he can really say that’s what he’s been doing lately. He decides to hide his passport and keep his “peace-loving self at home. Because that is what non-violent men do.” Stay in Canada, where at least there are fewer guns.

Well, maybe not. There are a lot of guns in MISS MONTREAL, many of them the property of Dante Ryan, who is in a vile mood thanks to his wife’s leaving him, no longer willing to put up with the stress of living with a not-altogether-reconstructed hitman. As the two drive to Quebec, it transpires that Dante is packing serious heat, which is worrisome since his temper is at a constant simmer. This makes him a threat to any driver who might cut him off and endanger his brand-new Dodge Charger. In Montreal, this means that two out of three drivers are in mortal danger.

Their investigations lead them pretty much the length and breadth of Montreal and even on a brief jaunt into the Laurentians. It is a very political city that they experience - nationalism of several stripes (Québec, Muslim, unadulterated anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant). Everyone, including Ryan, seems about to fly off the handle with deadly consequences and it is sometimes hard for Jonah to anticipate what the trigger will be. Trust is in short supply and communication difficult at best, though the language divide turns out to be the least of Geller’s problems. Suspense mounts and culminates at the massive concert that caps Quebec’s celebration of itself as a nation, the Fête Nationale.

Jonah Geller is from Toronto and has very much the same difficulty understanding the peculiarities of life in contemporary Montreal as any visitor might. But Shrier was born in this city and grew up on stories of the old days in Mile End. The very title refers to a long-gone but once iconic restaurant that flourished in the days before Montreal became a gourmet centre and business names in English became illegal. He inserts a lovely vignette of life in the poor Jewish community in that neighbourhood just after the Second World War. It’s a sad story from a time that seems immensely distant, but it provides an historical perspective on the somewhat chaotic events occurring in the present moment. It was my favourite part of the book and so I was very pleased to discover that Shrier’s next venture will let Jonah rest for a while after his exertions. While Jonah recovers his strength in Toronto, Shrier’s next book is to be set in Montreal of the 1950s when it was Canada’s City of Sin, glamourous, corrupt, and darkly attractive to the entire country. I am really looking forward to it.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal.

John Sullivan

Winnipeg Free Press

“Shrier is in hot pursuit of a best-novel three-peat.”

For Howard Shrier, it’s fourth-time lucky with his latest Jonah Geller case, Miss Montreal (Vintage, 288 pages, $20).

Not that the Toronto journo hasn’t had his share of good fortune—his scrappy, Jewish, homegrown PI’s 2008 debut, Buffalo Jump, won the Crime Writers of Canada award for best first novel, while the sequel, High Chicago, was named 2009’s best Canadian crime novel. Last year’s Boston Cream was also well-received.

Although the churlish might have once regarded these accolades as premature, excessive or a tad parochial, such caveats hold no merit now. This time, Shrier has built his own luck with a more compelling tale, more cohesively told, with admirable pacing, richer characterization and solid editing.

Perhaps it’s a case of repatriating the series. The first three books were consecutively set in Buffalo, Chicago and Boston, perhaps to encourage U.S. sales. This one takes Geller and his gun-toting pal, Dante Ryan, to Shrier’s native Montreal on a hunt for the murderer of an acclaimed local newspaper columnist, once a childhood friend.

It’s a change vastly for the better. That city’s hectic vibrancy, ethnic tensions and political shenanigans are well-captured and should translate exotically south of the border.

Still, it’s Geller’s perilous and hilarious exploits with ex-contract killer Ryan (surely one of the more inventive rich crime-lit pairings) that muscles this tale along. The explosive Ryan’s near-homicidal struggle with the city’s traffic mayhem is, alone, worth the price of admission.

But, beyond all else, this is a tale of tragic love and fateful choices: Serendipity, the path untaken, lost opportunities—call it what you will—that spawn multi-generational hatreds.

Go, discover Geller. Because Shrier is in hot pursuit of a best-novel three-peat.

Margaret Cannon

Globe and Mail

“The best Jonah Geller book yet”

The latest Jonah Geller novel begins, improbably, at summer camp, where Geller assists a sports-challenged kid in the finals of a softball tournament. It’s a long shot from Geller’s last outing, which found him nearly dead in Boston, and events there mean he’s not returning to the U.S. of A. any time soon. So it’s Toronto and Sammy Adler, that nerdy kid from back when. But the halcyon camp days turn dark when Geller’s grandfather calls to tell him that Adler is dead, murdered. He was beaten to death, a Star of David carved into his chest.

That’s all it takes to get Jonah and his pal Dante on the 401 east and it’s more than enough to power the plot that Shrier builds. Alongside the thrills, we get a trip through a city that Shrier knows intimately and loves utterly. Montreal is more than a background, it’s a character in the novel, as L.A. is to Chandler or Boston to Parker. This is the best Jonah Geller book yet and there are more to come.

Lesley McAllister

NOW Magazine

“A great addition to the world of crime fiction”

In the push to get homegrown crime novels onto the market, a fair number of mediocre offerings make it into print. Thankfully, local author Howard Shrier’s Jonah Geller books aren’t among them. Miss Montreal, the fourth in this top-notch series featuring Toronto P.I. Jonah Geller, is evidence of that.

Geller is back home after a disastrous case in Boston that left his partner badly injured and the usually fearless detective feeling raw. So when his company, World Repairs, is hired to look into the murder of an old acquaintance from camp, a fellow Jew found in a Montreal laneway with a Star of David carved into his chest, Geller is only too happy to outrun his demons on the 401. Along for the ride – and some serious protection – is his friend, former hit man Dante Ryan.

Turns out the timid, awkward teenager Geller knew had grown into a popular newspaper columnist and was stirring up some deep shit on a prominent pure laine family. The investigation throws Geller into the charged world of anti-Muslim immigration and Quebec’s séparatiste politics. When he uncovers the real story, events come to an explosive head during Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations.

Born and raised in Montreal, Shrier portrays the city, from its mouth-watering bagel shops on St. Viateur to the gritty warehouses off the Metropolitan, with the eye of a true connoisseur.
His characters are as vivid as the streets – smart, wisecracking and less than squeaky clean. And Geller is that perfect mix of tough and compassionate.

Miss Montreal is one of those books you can’t put down. It’s a great addition to the world of crime fiction and a must-read for fans of La Belle Ville.

Steve Steinbock

Ellery Queen Magazine, 2012

“My top find of the year. Deserves much wider attention.”

A thousand books pass through The Jury Box every year. Of those, only a handful are chosen for review each month. I was asked how I select the books I review. Like any other mystery fan, I pick books that grab my attention. I look for themes among the books. And I try to seek variety.

The question that inevitably comes next is, how can I evaluate “fluffy” mysteries alongside “serious” crime fiction? Easy. I judge each book on its own merits. A novel featuring a crime-solving canine chef might be likely to have less literary merit than an epic coming-of-age novel with a serial killer or a work of historical noir. But I’d rather read well-written “fluff” that keeps its promise to the reader than a mediocre or pretentious version of either of the latter.

Every book is a promise made by the author to the reader. It’s a promise that the book is the author’s sincere attempt to tell a good story with integrity and skill. As individual readers, we may choose cozies or noir, historical or contemporary, humorous or starkly serious. It’s the mission of The Jury Box to place as many titles as possible before you under the wide umbrella of “mystery fiction” and let you choose. It’s also my goal to give my readers honest evaluations of the books I review. I’ve been finding that my star ratings have been sliding upward. I find myself less inclined to finish an average or below average book, so I’m less likely to review two- or three-star books. A three-star book is a solid novel that keeps its promise, while a four-star book exceeds it. A five-star book, of which I include two this month, takes me completely by surprise and raises the literary experience. With that in mind, this month we look at a very wide variety of titles, running the gamut of crime fiction.

Shrier is my top find of the year. The Toronto-based author is not well known below the Canadian border, but his excellent P.I. series deserves much wider attention. Hired by an Orthodox Jewish couple to travel to Boston to locate their medical-student son, P.I. Jonah Geller and his partner Jenn cross paths with an evil but altogether believable criminal consortium. Geller is an exceptionally well-drawn character, a true man of peace who is forced to harness his own inner violence.

Steve Steinbock, The Jury Box

http://www.themysteryplace.com/eqmm/jury/

Jim Napier

Spinetingler Magazine

“Shrier started strong, and he’s only getting better.”

Rockford moves to Boston

Canadian crime writer Howard Shrier is on a roll. Making his debut in 2008 with Buffalo Jump he introduced readers to Jonah Geller, a gutsy Toronto-based Jewish PI with friends in low places. The book netted Shrier that year’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The sequel, High Chicago, earned him a second Arthur Ellis, this time for Best Novel of 2009–an unprecedented consecutive win. Shrier’s latest foray into crime fiction, Boston Cream, could very well make it a hat trick. With but three books under his belt the series has already been optioned for television. Think an updated version of “The Rockford Files” with a Jewish PI in the leading role. If the film version is anything like the books, it should be a real winner.

Recovering from a concussion at home in Toronto, PI Jonah Geller is approached by a distraught middle-aged couple who ask him to locate their son, Dr. David Fine. A transplant fellow at Boston’s Sinai Hospital, Fine’s been missing for two weeks. Still suffering from his injuries–and lying to his doctor–Geller is reluctant to take on the case. But the couple’s desperation gets to him, so he finally agrees.

Knowing that Jonah’s not firing on all cylinders, his partner Jenn joins him on the case. Arriving in Boston they learn that Mike Gianelli, a police detective in nearby Brookline, where Fine lived, has come up empty. He’s unconvinced that Fine hasn’t simply taken a time out from a stressful job, and with no evidence of foul play, and given that Fine is an adult he can’t go much further. But David’s brother Micah insists there’s no way his brother–the buttoned-down, successful one–would suddenly and voluntarily drop out of sight, leaving his parents to twist in the wind. That leaves Geller with two glaring possibilities, neither of which is good: either Fine’s been kidnapped or he’s dead. Geller leans toward the latter.

Talking with Fine’s roommate draws a big zero. But nosing around their apartment Jonah finds five thousand dollars stashed in a bag stashed in Fine’s bedroom. This from a man who was working on a modest salary and who was, according to his roommate, obsessed with paying his parents back for his medical education.

Among the papers Jonah had brought with him was a poster for another missing man. An Indian shopkeeper, Harinder Patel, had also suddenly disappeared, just a week before David Fine. When he visits the shop to speak with Patel’s son Jonah shows him Fine’s photo, and learns that the doctor had been there as well. Like Fine, Patel also had a fat wad of fifty-dollar bills, totalling five thousand dollars. What dark secret bonds two such disparate men together? Before the case is solved Geller will match wits with a deceptively likeable Rabbi, a desperate Congressman, and a menacing Irish mobster, and people will die.

Crime writers should look over their shoulders: Howard Shrier started strong, and he’s only getting better. Boston Cream is a well-paced, atmospheric tale, with assured writing, believable characters and engaging protagonists. The plot is rooted in events taken from the real world, and, as with Shrier’s earlier stories, justice is often dispensed at the point of a gun. Too bad Jonah Geller won’t be sticking around Beantown; Spencer fans would have had a worthy replacement.

Kirkus Reviews

“Slam-bang action and deft writing”

My son, the doctor, is missing.

Never in his young life has David Fine come even close to setting a foot wrong. An overachiever almost from the womb, a dutiful son to adoring Jewish parents, a doctor, a surgeon yet, he’s on his way to collecting his full share of glittering prizes, until suddenly he isn’t. Suddenly he’s gone, baby, gone, and no one in Boston can tell Jonah Geller a single thing that makes sense of the disappearance. What’s a Toronto PI doing in Boston anyway? It’s a concern Jonah himself had put before David’s Orthodox father, who hired him, caveats and all, promising that the mission would have God’s sanction. So Jonah signed on. It turns out that David is a surgeon with an evocative specialty: transplants. It doesn’t take Jonah long to learn that the grievous unavailability of human parts spells opportunity to sharpies like Sean Daggett. Clever, amoral and ruthless, Daggett is an entrepreneurial thug, a spider for well-intentioned flies like idealistic David who, helplessly ensnared, becomes an object lesson in what can happen to a nice Jewish boy when a bottom-feeder beyond redemption, some bad breaks here and there, and a bit of his own hubris conspire against him.

Shrier’s third (High Chicago, 2009, etc.) is a near miss. Slam-bang action scenes and deft writing can’t quite pump up the slightness of the story.

Elizabeth Read

Women's Post

“Clever and thought provoking”

Howard Shrier’s private eye, Jonah Geller, is as hard-boiled as they come. This latest book in a series about a Canadian secular Jew, trained in the Israeli army, proves that not even the need to recuperate from a serious concussion can keep a tough guy at home in Toronto.

Geller is hired to search for a missing intern at a famous Boston hospital. Since David Fine has always been a dutiful son about contacting them regularly, his parents believe that something terrible must have happened to him. Even though Geller is still in recovery mode, he finds himself compelled to devote his detective agency’s skills to take on the case. David Fine’s parents deserve to have an answer, though Geller doubts it will be a positive outcome.  He also knows he will not be welcomed by the local police and that his private investigator license carries no weight in the States.

Boston turns out to be populated with stereotypes that prove not to be so cliché after all: Geller’s assistant, Jenn Raudsepp, is a gorgeous, blond computer whiz, who everyone assumes is having a relationship with him; a missing East Indian storekeeper, who appears to be linked to the disappearance of David Fine; and added to the mix are a rabbi and his beautiful unmarried daughter, a transplant surgeon with a Napoleonic complex and a smooth politician who provides more questions than answers. Throw in a few Irish thugs, Italian mobsters, a “street-hustler” and clueless cops and you’ve got a city of people with their own agendas.

Naturally, everything starts to go wrong in the investigation. When Jenn is kidnapped, things become personal for Geller and the ensuing gunfights and property damage somehow fail to attract police action until too late.

The book could have been titled, Geller’s Law, as Jonah is the moral compass of the story making life and death decisions. And even he finds it difficult to live with the choices he is forced to make. Geller blames his forays across the border where the guns are easier to obtain and stakes are higher for the violence that results.  “I am not a violent man. I keep telling myself that.” he declares. But “Guilt attaches to Jews like barnacles…” and not even Talmudic reasoning is able to provide him with peace of mind.

If you like your shoot ‘em up action mixed with clever dialogue and thought provoking conundrums, then Boston Cream is just the ticket.

Sarah Weinman

Quill and Quire

“Makes the reader care about Geller.”

In the acknowledgments for Boston Cream, Howard Shrier writes that he reread all the novels of Dennis Lehane, the early novels in Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, and other old favourites “to deepen my sense of crime in Boston.” It’s a rich tradition to live up to in dropping his Toronto-based private detective, Jonah Geller (whose previous cross-border tales took him to Buffalo and Chicago), in a city characterized by haphazard driving, tough neighbourhoods, and the seamy intersection of big money and organized crime. While Shrier’s sleuth holds his own, the shadows cast by those other big names are difficult to completely escape.

The set-up is standard: Geller, recently concussed but cleared by a doctor for regular work, is hired by an Orthodox Jewish couple to track down their eldest son, David, a high-achieving surgical resident at a prominent Boston hospital who vanished two weeks before. Geller and his senior partner, Jenn, set off to investigate what the cops won’t or can’t, and the standard mystery elements quickly shade into disturbing territory involving online poker, an influential politician, organ donation, and nasty psychos without any qualms about killing – or worse. Blood is shed, and Geller grapples with how his violent actions, while necessary, conflict with the aspirations embodied in Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept of “repairing the world,” which gives his detective agency its name.

As with his previous books, Shrier keeps the pace moving at a brisk clip, ups the ante with surprising (though not always effective) plot twists, and makes the reader care about Geller and Jenn. But it is Dante Ryan, Geller’s sometime sidekick, who owes the clearest debt to Hawk and Bubba, the violence-prone supporting players found in Parker and Lehane. Ryan’s resemblance to these hard-boiled progenitors renders him pallid in a Boston setting, something that wasn’t the case in Shrier’s earlier books.

Mary Cassells, shvoong.com

shvoong.com

“Well worth reading every page.”

If you haven’t read either of Howard Shrier’s previous two thrillers (Buffalo Jump & High Chicago), DO NOT read this excellent read - Yet. Some plot links appear in this volume, so bide your time, or thoroughly enjoy this novel and promise to forget if you choose (you will) to read the Author’s previous two books.

Boston Cream continues the journey of Jonah Geller and his associates. In respecting the landmarks of the Cities involved - although he himself has apologized for occasionally adjusting the geography of his story’s back lot - the reader can follow our PI through the City as if beside him.

The seasoned detective may suspect the solution to the crime, but the unexpected twists and turns in this book are well worth reading every page.

Good, short, read. However, it’s a smooth style that might leave the reader reluctant to abandon this novel for sleep!

Definitely an excellent choice for the Cottage.

Maragaret Cannon

Globe and Mail

“A winning combination for any mystery lover.”

The third Jonah Geller novel by Arthur Ellis-winner Howard Shrier is the best so far. Shrier has a great eye for location and a good ear for dialogue. Add those to solid characters and an intriguing plot and you have a winning combination for any mystery lover.

PI Jonah Geller nearly had his brains fried in High Chicago. He’s resting in Toronto and trying to focus when an old friend brings him a very personal case. Ron Fine’s son, David, is missing. The police in Boston, where the brilliant young surgeon lives, aren’t concerned. They know all about young men who take off for a while and don’t check in with Mum and Dad. But Dr. David isn’t like that. The Fines are convinced he’s in trouble.

Jonah heads to Boston on the trail, accompanied by his partner, Jenn Raudsepp. It doesn’t take long to discover that David Fine has run afoul of a vicious crime boss and is on the run for his life. The chase turns deadly, and Jenn joins the ranks of the missing. Jonah calls for a Toronto wise guy named Dante Ryan to help, and the clock is ticking down.

A Bookworm's World

“I am so glad to have discovered Howard Shrier”

Boston Cream is Howard Shrier’s third novel featuring PI Jonah Geller, but a first read of this Arthur Ellis award winning Canadian author for me. It definitely won’t be the last.

Geller is just back to work, still feeling the effects of a severe concussion, earned on his last case. If Ron Fine wasn’t a family friend, he would have turned him down. Ron hasn’t heard from his son in almost two weeks and it’s unlike David to not be in touch with his family or miss work - he’s a highly skilled surgeon at a Boston hospital. Ron doesn’t think the cops in Boston are looking very hard for David and wants his own man on the job. Geller reluctantly agrees, but takes along partner Jenn Raudsepp for help.

Geller and Raudsepp are good, very good. They quickly find clues and connections the cops have missed. But...the bad guys have their sights on Geller and Raudsepp as well. Jenn is kidnapped and Geller is forced to call in another favour from Canada...former hit man Dante Ryan....

I am so glad to have discovered Shrier. Geller is a richly different character - his sense of right and wrong is clearly defined and the path to justice very clear, although it may not always be on the right side of the law. I didn’t get to know Jenn as well as I would have liked to in this book, but Geller and Ryan are fiercely loyal and protective of her. I’ll have to go back and read the first two in this series Buffalo Jump and High Chicago to get the back story. I am intrigued by Dante Ryan - a hit man who wants to put that part of his life behind him, but won’t let his friends down.

I loved the ‘local’ setting - reading of streets and places in Toronto and imagining Geller walking down them. Although Shrier takes Geller over the border in Boston Cream, the Canadian references are very fun and had me laughing to myself. When Geller takes out two Boston bad guys…

“What does McCudden say”
“He ain’t talking yet. Still doped up. Took two pretty good shots.”
“From a Canadian.”
“Yeah.”

The plotting in Boston Cream is excellent, taking a very real crime (I don’t want to giveaway the plot) and weaving a tight, taut story around it. The pacing is good, with the final chapters being a run for the money - an action packed, non stop finale.

“I am not a violent man. I keep telling myself that. I think of myself as a good man at heart, who keeps getting caught up in deeds committed by men who really are violent. So I tell myself, if it only happens when I go to the States, where the stakes seem high and guns abound, then there’s a simple solution. Hide my passport and keep my peace-loving self at home. Because that is what non-violent men do.”

Uh-huh - I’ll be waiting to see what case Geller takes on next.....and where.....

Yvonne Klein

reviewingtheevidence.com

“Where Jonah goes, I'll be certain to follow”

Toronto PI Jonah Geller hasn’t played hockey for a while, but he is seeing a sports medicine physician who specializes in the after-effects of concussion. It wasn’t an errant hockey stick that laid him low, but a deliberately-wielded barbell, one of the hazards of his trade. But he should probably have followed Sidney Crosby’s example and taken some months off to recover. As it is, he is back in action far too soon and not at his best.

Nevertheless, when his elder brother Daniel the lawyer and his mother’s favourite son refers a worried couple to him, Jonah thinks this will be a low-key case that won’t overtax him. Ron and Sheila Fine are a middle-aged couple in suburban Toronto whose son David is a post-graduate resident in transplant surgery in Boston. A serious, studious, religious young man, he has been uncharacteristically missing for several weeks and his parents are understandably worried. Jonah has his own reasons for taking a jaundiced view of over-achieving elder brothers and assumes that David has simply burnt out and is probably taking a little rest, perhaps with a woman he wouldn’t bring home to mother.

So Jonah heads off to Boston along with his lesbian business partner, Jenn Raudsepp, who knows the city well. Within days, he is deep in the Boston Jewish community, where it rapidly becomes clear that David is not having a doctor’s little holiday but is running for his life, pursued by some extremely unpleasant Boston gangsters. In no time at all, Jenn has been snatched by the same gorillas, and Jonah calls on Dante Ryan, restauranteur and former hit man to come down from Toronto and help him get her back.

Jonah Geller is an attractive character in many ways. He is an unobservant Jew, an atheist in fact, who nevertheless is deeply attached to his Jewish identity. He once served in the Israeli army, where he lost his first love and killed his first man, he depends more on martial arts than on firepower, and he views his profession as a moral one, in the sense that it gives him the opportunity to discharge the obligation he learned in Hebrew school to repair the world, to leave it better than he found it.

But it’s getting a lot harder to do. Boston Cream is a darker book than the earlier two in the series. Despite his line of work, Jonah has always considered himself a non-violent man, one who merely responds defensively to the violence of others. Yet at the end, he sits and grimly contemplates the wreckage he’s been part of. As long as he stayed north of the border, the worst violence has been a fist or a kick; it’s when he ventures south to the United States, “where the stakes seem higher and guns abound,” that mayhem breaks out. Maybe it’s not him but the country. In future, he swears, he’ll stay home. Maybe that way, he can be both a private eye and a mensch.

Readers can only hope his resolve weakens. Shrier has found a brilliant solution to the problem that apparently confronts many Canadian crime writers. The received wisdom is that Americans do not want to read about Canada, except in the form of an idyllic little snow-bound village. They especially don’t want to read about Canadian cities, home to eighty percent of the population. By sending Jonah off to, variously, Buffalo, Chicago, and now Boston, Shrier manages to write a thoroughly Canadian novel situated in a convincingly realized American city. It would be a pity if his moral crisis keeps him out of Baltimore or Philadelphia, or even New York. On the other hand, it might be nice to see what Jonah can get up to in Toronto or Montreal. Whether he goes or stays, I’ll be certain to follow.

Hubert O'Hearn

By the Book

“Hits the sweet spot in all attributes”

You know, this book reviewing business can be a pretty hard track to sled sometimes. You read enough plaintive tales of former prisoners behind the Iron Curtain who are released into the light of Western culture only to find that the light hurts their eyes … I think you get where I’m going with this. As every Canadian hockey player (or curler, bowler or golfer for that matter) knows, after expending massive amounts of energy and passion on a match, it’s time for a beer. Boston Cream is a fine and refreshing beer.

There is absolutely nothing wrong and a whole right about the happy relaxation a well-written private dick story can give the reader. I’ve certainly had decades of delight from them, ever since I was twelve or thirteen or so and noticed that there was this Mickey Spillane fellow whose books seemed to take up most of the bookstore shelf down and across from Agatha Christie. Later there was Dashiell Hammet’s Continental Op, never named as anything other than that, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and the list goes on from there.

Howard Shrier’s private detective Jonah Geller, now smoothly in stride in a third novel, hits the sweet spot in all the attributes a reader expects of the genre. In a rough order of rising importance, Geller runs a small office, is single, has had relationships and is all in favour of then except that the Work tends to be a deterrent to romance, is fast with the fists yet focused in the head, knows the sort of rough characters who can come in handy in a firefight, and like the good hunter he only kills out of necessity while taking no pleasure from the act.

Still, just because one knows all the notes on a piano doesn’t make one a pianist. The skill for the author is in placing these brilliant yet troubled men in intriguing situations which in turn entice the reader to play along. By ‘play along’ I don’t necessarily mean solving a mystery. In the case of Boston Cream, Geller is hired by parents in his home city of Toronto to find their son who disappeared in Boston two weeks’ earlier. There really is no mystery. The path of the novel is set by the hundredth page and the question in the reader’s mind is neither ‘What happened?’ or ‘Who made it happen?’; rather it is ‘How will he solve this?’ If I just told you that the disappearing son is a promising surgical intern graduated from Harvard Medical School and there is a suggestion of money needs and shady dealings in the sale of human organs, I’m pretty sure you can fill in the blanks of the plot with a probable 80% accuracy. I have faith in the inventive capacities of my readers.

No, all the fun is in the finding. Geller reminds me of when Elliott Gould played Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye (which is worth a look if you haven’t seen). There is the same troubled Jewish character hidden within the action man exterior. Jonah Geller is the younger brother of a highly successful brother and feels a bit of the black sheep. He does not so much worry about that and other problems, such as a post-concussive disorder, he frets them. As such it’s not laid on too thick and enables some engaging back-and-forths in Boston Cream between Geller and a rotund Rabbi - who of course has a hot daughter. This is private eye fiction which is a world where women must be desirable.

If I’m making Boston Cream sound highly conventional, then I’m doing my job right. The villains are scum for whom one does not shed a single tear in anticipation of their (please let it be grisly) demise. The police are as mean and dumb as a hammerhead shark with a fish hook in its mouth. They must not be trusted with Important Information and they never, ever connect a cluttered trail of bodies back to - Yoo Hoo! - the private dick from out of town who’s been talking to them.

So yes Shrier’s book is conventional and that is a compliment. Genres exist for one simple reason: people like them. And what they like is for all the keys on the xylophone to be struck in a pleasing sequence. Like a great wrestling match, the audience wants those expected moments and characters to appear. When I was taught screen and television writing, the instructor made a firm point about the latter, ‘You must service your audience’s needs.’ Someone must have told Howard Shrier that or something similar and he evidently took it to heart. He delivers a cracking good entertainment that I think Dashiell Hammett himself might have said to its author, ‘Nice job kid.’

Don Graves

The Hamilton Spectator

“A thriller of insight, compassion and urgency”

“From start to epilogue, Boston Cream is a mystery thriller of insight, compassion, with an infectious sense of urgency that drives to a conclusion both real and satisfying.

Author Howard Shrier masterfully links the dialogue to the pace, the setting and the plot with an energy that makes readers feel they’re absorbing the story at a rate almost too fast to take in.

A brilliant surgeon is drawn into the underbelly of illegal organ sale and transplant. Why? He’s blackmailed, shown doctored photos of mangled, tortured victims with his son’s head transposed onto the bodies. Private investigator Jonah Geller opens a bloodied Pandora’s Box to solve the case. Intricately woven into the fabric of the horrendous story is the magnetic draw of self-righteousness — and the universal balm of money.

I suggested in an earlier column that Shrier was an author to watch. In Boston Cream, he’s arrived.”

Susan G. Cole

NOW Magazine

“One of Canada's most gifted thriller writers”

“Howard Shrier has quickly cemented his reputation as one of Canada’s most gifted thriller writers. His debut, Buffalo Jump, introducing PI Jonah Geller, took the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel, and his follow-up, High Chicago, walked away with the best novel award in 2010. He’s back with Boston Cream ($19.95, Vintage), in which Geller looks for a missing doctor and runs up against an organ transplant conspiracy – excellent timing, with shady transplant rackets in the headlines.”

Library Journal

“There's a reason he consistently wins the Arthur Ellis award.”

When Dr. David Fine, a gifted young Boston-based, Orthodox Jewish transplant surgeon, vanishes, his Canadian parents are frantic. Toronto PI Jonah Geller agrees to take the case. He and his partner Jenn Raudsepp, tracing David’s path on the day he was last seen, soon uncover bizarre links among the Irish mob, a local congressman, and a rabbi with big dreams. Creepily, they’re all connected to the prominent hospital where David works. Jonah finds the idea that organ theft could be anything but urban legend ludicrous, but when folks are desperate, creative black-market opportunities do open up. Then things get downright brutal in this complicated thriller, and Jonah is forced to bring in reinforcements. David’s betrayal by those he trusted the most is not something that Jonah is going to let slide. Verdict There is a reason Shrier (High Chicago ) consistently wins the Arthur Ellis, Canada’s highest crime fiction award: he tells a really good story. Relish the local color, cultural nuances, and successive waves of action.

Publishers Weekly

“Boston Cream....should make it three [Arthur Ellis Awards] in a row.”

Starred Review, Nov 25: Boston serves as the backdrop for Shrier’s explosive third crime novel featuring Jonah Geller, a Toronto PI with a penchant for cases south of the border. When the Brookline, Mass., police are unable to find David Fine, a “transplant fellow” and devout Jew who’s disappeared from Boston’s Sinai Hospital, Fine’s parents hire Geller to investigate. Aided by partner Jenn Raudsepp, Geller follows a twisted trail that involves Fine’s distinguished transplant surgeon boss; a mob guy with a new scam; Fine’s rabbi; a Boston lawyer whose wife needs a kidney; and an Indian grocer who vanished the week before Fine. When Raudsepp’s life is on the line, Geller calls in reinforcements, including a friend who’s a former contract killer, and prepares for war. Having won Arthur Ellis Awards for 2008’s Buffalo Jump and 2009’s High Chicago , Shrier should make it three in a row with this excellent effort. 

Bestselling author Deon Meyer

“What a great book High Chicago is.”

What a great book High Chicago is. I thoroughly enjoyed it, could not put it down. You and Jonah Geller have an avid new fan.

Lesley McAllister

NOW Magazine

“A great addition to the mystery shelf. Jonah Geller is the kind of wise, justice-seeking guy you can’t resist.”

HIGH ON SHRIER

By Lesley McAllister, NOW Magazine

Toronto author Howard Shrier’s High Chicago took the prize at this year’s Arthur Ellis Awards for excellence in Canadian crime writing. And you can see why. Shrier, who counts crime reporter and comedy writer among his accomplishments, writes with an easy assurance and a killer sense of humour.

This is the second book in his series featuring Toronto private investigator Jonah Geller. A departure from soft-boiled Jewish shamuses like Howard Engel’s Benny Cooperman, Geller is street smart, fit and fearless, with a less than squeaky-clean past and a penchant for stepping up when needed.

The P.I. has recently opened his own agency, the enigmatically named World Repairs, with his best friend, Jenn Raudsepp, a stunning, wisecracking lesbian. Business is slow and the rent is due when he’s hired to find out why a young woman seemingly jumped to her death from her university residence.
Bodies start to pile up, and the blood trail leads Geller to a neglected parcel of land on Toronto’s waterfront and a high-flying Chicago real estate developer.

One of the best things about Shrier’s mysteries is that they eat, sleep and breathe Toronto. It’s rare, and refreshing, to see the city portrayed so perfectly on the page. And this is the real Toronto, with all its bruises and blemishes.

High Chicago is a great addition to the mystery shelf. Jonah Geller is the kind of wise, justice-seeking guy you can’t resist, and his relationship with his gay partner gives a nice contemporary – and often funny – twist to the genre. Nick and Nora they ain’t.

Let’s hope there’s a new Geller in the works; the world could do with a bit more of the Jewish idea of tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.”

Rating: NNNN (out of 5)

Don Graves

Hamilton Spectator

“An author to watch for, both in Canada and abroad.”

Howard Shrier’s second novel, High Chicago, is even better than his award winning debut.

Toronto investigator Jonah Geller becomes convinced a suicide is murder linked to the upmarket construction of a piece of Toronto’s old waterfront. But the evidence is insufficient for the police to act. The suspect, the victim’s father’s business partner, is eliminating everything that gets in his way.

High Chicago is rich in action and dialogue. It’s skillfully plotted and bold with a firm yet compassionate voice.

High Chicago confirms Shrier as an author to watch for, both in Canada and abroad. It’s a mystery that peels away the urban layers of big business civlity to expose the raw flesh of reality underneath.

Jim Napier

Sherbrooke Record

“Shrier’s novels are fast winning him legions of loyal fans.”

Howard Shrier’s debut novel, Buffalo Jump, was a strong beginning for the Toronto writer, and I suggested at the time that readers would want to keep an eye out for its sequel.  Turned out, that was an understatement....Combining fast-paced action with well-structured plots, and featuring a complex but likeable protagonist, Shrier’s novels are fast winning him legions of loyal fans.  If you enjoy contemporary hard-boiled tales with nuanced characters, check out High Chicago; you won’t be disappointed.

Margaret Cannon

Globe and Mail

“Stellar characters, clever plotting and a terrific story.”

Howard Shrier’s first novel, Buffalo Jump, won the Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel. High Chicago, his second, will definitely be short-listed for another. It’s got the same stellar characters, the same clever plotting, and, if anything, an even better story.

If you missed Buffalo Jump, you might not know that investigator Jonah Geller, of Toronto, nearly died. He has left his very lucrative job at Beacon Security and opened his own small investigative shop, which he calls World Repairs. He may not be able to solve the world’s biggest problems, but he’s willing to try on the small stuff. That, Jonah believes, is where the interesting work is to be found.

Jonah and his partner, Jenn Raudsepp, are hired to investigate the suicide of a young woman. It seems simple enough, but the case leads Jonah into the very high-stakes construction business, and particularly a large development on the Toronto waterfront. From there, it’s a quick skip to murder and a trip to Chicago, to uncover the past and present of a rich and powerful man who seems to be able to order the death of anyone who gets in his way.

Don Graves

Hamilton Spectator

“A great read: tight, great pacing and the usual on-the mark dialogue. ”

Ken Kilpatrick

Guelph Mercury

“Dialogue so sharp you could cut your tongue on it.”

Dialogue so sharp you could cut your tongue on it. That’s what makes this second novel by Howard Shrier so appealing. His fictional gumshoe Jonah Geller needs to solve the problem of a young girl who apparently committed suicide by leaping from the balcony of a high rise apartment. He’s not so sure the girl did herself in — it may have been a murder.

Geller, who runs an agency called World Repairs — a silly name for a investigation agency — also uncovers some serious hanky panky around a massive development on the Toronto waterfront. Most of the questions lead back to a developer living in Chicago. So Geller makes a visit. Almost immediately, someone tries to kill him. He guesses he must be on the right track. The developer, Simon Bird, is in business with the dead girl’s father. Geller eventually figures all of it out, but not before more violence and death.

Shrier is a former crime reporter for a Montreal newspaper who now lives in Toronto. His first novel was called Buffalo Jump.

Shlomo Schwartzberg

Canadian Jewish News

“With High Chicago, Shrier cements his reputation as a fine mystery writer.”

High Chicago blends mystery, suspense
By Shlomo Schwartzberg, September 10, 2009

Howard Shrier’s second novel, High Chicago, again features the Toronto-based Jewish detective Jonah Geller.  It ups the ante from his previous novel in terms of the forces Jonah is confronting, but more significantly in terms of the damage the world ends up inflicting on him.

Whereas Shrier’s award-winning debut novel Buffalo Jump dealt as much with Canadian pharmaceuticals being smuggled into the United States as it did with murder, High Chicago (Vintage Canada) begins with a request to investigate the suicide of a young woman, Maya Cantor. It is a case Jonah soon suspects is actually a homicide.

Maya’s death is followed by two more mysterious deaths, a highly disturbing situation, and one that is tied to a dangerously polluted highrise development that is being erected in Toronto’s Harbourfront area.

All this eventually pits Jonah against Simon Birk, a ruthless Donald Trump- like Chicago real estate mogul whom Jonah is determined to bring down. But he has no evidence implicating Simon in any crime, so he sets off for Chicago in hopes of finding a way to expose the man.

Former hit man Dante Ryan, whom Jonah befriended in Buffalo Jump, also finds his way to the Windy City, as does Jenn Raudsepp, Jonah’s new partner in his recently set up detective agency. Called World Repairs, it is a translation of tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of “repairing the world” and making it a better place.

In Buffalo Jump, Jonah was still somewhat idealistic despite witnessing his girlfriend die in a terrorist attack in Israel, and stubbornly clung to the belief that he could make a difference as a private investigator. In High Chicago, those ideals are completely tarnished as Jonah realizes he can only defeat Simon by operating outside the confines of the law.

In that regard, Shrier has structured this book very differently from Buffalo Jump, which was a cleverly plotted mystery that took a roundabout, unpredictable route to its exciting resolution.

High Chicago, like Simon Birk himself, is blunt and tough, and does not attempt to disguise (most of) its mysteries. That seems like a flaw at first, but Shrier is too good a writer not to be doing this on purpose.

Chicago is after all much bigger than Buffalo, so its challenges would naturally be more overwhelming for Jonah.

High Chicago fascinates because one can feel how overmatched Jonah is and thus wonder how and if he’ll come out of this adventure in one piece. Add to that Shrier’s wry and witty observations on Chicago’s superior waterfront area and architecture, which is immediately apparent to anyone who has ever visited the city, and you end up with a gripping second novel that’s not at all like his first.

The book has its flaws, with a plot that occasionally strains credulity, notably during the climax, and Shrier’s tendency to indicate which streets all the action takes place on gets annoying, but he doesn’t repeat himself or fail to deepen his main character.

On the other hand, Jonah grows in stature and complexity and thus becomes more interesting.

With High Chicago, Shrier cements his reputation as a fine mystery writer. I suspect and hope that he and Jonah will be around for a long time to come

Paperjam

“Proof that people are investing time and effort in characters.”

If you’re like me the first mystery that needs solving about mystery novels is who actually reads them? There’s this huge market for them and they always contain the same things: a gruesomely engrossing premise that hooks the reader, a detective with a chip on his or her shoulder, a flirtation with a tough-as-nails superior officer, lots of red herring suspects and a final surprise twist. And while you’d think the public would tire of the format, the opposite is the case.

I haven’t been following the career of Toronto investigator Jonah Geller so, for me, “High Chicago” is kind of like reading his blog. Apparently he’s opened his own agency and is investigating the suicide of a young woman and how it’s connected to a construction deal near the city’s waterfront. After that I can’t tell you what happens because the book’s publisher would put me in cement shoes if I did.

What I can tell you is that what’s on the page is easy to read, the pace is friendly on the brain, and the characters’ motivations always make sense (bonus points for some surprising character nuance and quirk). I’m sure it’s enough for the faithful reader-clients of Mr. Geller and the market for these books will remain strong. Suffice to say that as far as mysteries go, “High Chicago” has a lot going for it. Is it literature-lite? Of course. Is it genre-friendly? Yes, it is. And those are all good things. The book is proof that people are investing time and effort in characters; that in our internet age good mysteries are keeping them reading books at all.

Village Post

“Shrier is one of the most exciting new voices in the mystery genre. ”

A follow-up to the successful Buffalo Jump, High Chicago continues the adventures of Toronto private detective Jonah Geller. The setting is Toronto, the plot hinges on the development of the long-neglected waterfront. What could be more local than that? Shrier is one of the most exciting new voices in the mystery genre. This sophomore effort is sure to please. 

Todd Kimberley

Calgary Herald

“Shrier is making the world of crime fiction a better place, one Jonah Geller mystery at a time.”

Tikkun olam. It’s a Hebrew phrase that translates roughly to “making the world a better place,” and an expression that nearly ended up on Jonah Geller’s newly hung shingle in Toronto. Last year, Shrier won an Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada for Buffalo Jump, his memorable introduction of Geller, a Jewish P. I. This followup finds Geller and his partner, Jenn Raudsepp, chasing down a high-flying real estate tycoon in the Second City after the bodies start stacking up in the Big Smoke. It’s a more than worthy sequel, with an intriguing plot, a wicked sense of humour and masterfully managed dialogue. You might even say that Shrier is making the world of crime fiction a better place, one Jonah Geller mystery at a time.

Award-winning author Sean Chercover

“Toronto may have just found its Spenser in PI Jonah Geller.”

Howard Shrier starts with the canvas of a crackling good mystery, then paints a compelling portrait of modern secular Jewish life complete with its wisdom, contradictions, and abiding humor.  High Chicago is often funny, sometimes violent, and always thoughtful, with a powerful sense of place throughout.  Toronto may have just found its Spenser in PI Jonah Geller, and I can’t wait for his next case.

Linwood Barclay, bestselling author of No Time for Goodbye and Too Close to Home

“Shrier's first Jonah Geller mystery was terrific; High Chicago is even better.”

Bestselling author Jose Latour

“A fast-paced, entertaining read.”

A plot brimming with greed, deceit, violence and murder makes High Chicago a fast-paced, entertaining read.

Yvonne Klein

reviewingtheevidence.com

High Chicago is tighter, tauter, and speedier than its predecessor. ”

Back in North America, there are new entries in several excellent Canadian series. Howard Shrier follows up last year’s prize-winning BUFFALO JUMP with a foray into another American city in HIGH CHICAGO that I thought was, if anything, even better than the first.

When Jonah Geller first appeared last year, in BUFFALO JUMP, he was a rather low-profile employee of Beacon Security, where he spent his time largely doing surveillance work. Now he has left that job to set up shop on his own as World Repairs, an ambitious name for a two-person firm that spends a lot of time avoiding the rent collector. But the name, if decidedly a little pretentious, does reflect Geller’s view of his role as a private investigator. Geller is a non-observant Jew, one who avoids synagogue and eats ham and eggs for breakfast, but he is committed to one precept of his childhood religion - tikkun olam - the obligation to repair the world, to leave it better than before. Thus the mission of the agency: “World Repairs: We do what we can do and fix what we can fix. Sometimes we’re messengers, sometimes mediators, and sometimes we forget to mind our manners.”

At the outset, the case he is hired to look into seems well within his remit. The daughter of a well-known Toronto property developer has evidently committed suicide and her mother is understandably distraught, blaming herself for having failed her child. Jonah’s brother Daniel (the “good” son, successful lawyer, pillar of the community, apple of his mother’s eye) suggests Jonah might be able to set her mind at rest. Daniel hopes that a nice quiet domestic investigation, a family affair, will keep Jonah out of the kind of trouble that threatens his life and, worse, embarrasses the family.

But Jonah is not one to mind his manners, if he smells something that needs fixing, and before long, he is up to his neck in exactly the kind of trouble that makes Daniel extremely cross. First he crosses swords with a major real estate developer and father of the dead girl and then, before you know it, he is across the border in Chicago, hot in pursuit of a Donald Trumpish sort of mega-builder who has ways of dealing with obstreperous private eyes.

He is ably assisted in all this by his business partner, lesbian Jenn Raudsepp and by the heavy artillery, the ex-hit man Dante Ryan, whom he joined forces with in his last adventure. Dante is now turned restauranteur and leading an exemplary life, but he has lost none of his underworld chops when they are required. Nor has Jonah, who may have high ethical standards, but who also has a black belt in karate and, a legacy of his training in the Israeli army, expertise in krav maga, a form of combat that emphasizes neutralizing your attacker and making a sage getaway, if possible.

Before it’s all over, a considerable amount of mayhem has taken place, some bad guys are quite satisfactorily dispatched, some surprising plot twists are unfurled, and some nail-biting suspense is developed. As is typically the case with this kind of story, events demand a certain suspension of disbelief (were crossing the border into the States only as easy as Dante Ryan, packing considerable heat, finds it here), but the characters, especially Jonah, are so attractive that we willingly go along for the ride.

The first novel in the series, BUFFALO JUMP, was named best first novel at the Arthur Ellis Awards this year. When a debut is that successful, we tend to keep our fingers crossed that the author can sustain the pace the next time out. No worries here - if anything, HIGH CHICAGO is tighter, tauter, and speedier than its predecessor. I am looking forward to the next American city to receive a flying visit from Jonah Geller and his crew. 

Peter Rozovsky

Detectivesbeyondborders.com

Buffalo Jump offers funny and fresh takes on the private-eye novel and not-so-funny trips into scary moral territory. ”

Buffalo Jump offers funny and fresh takes on the private-eye novel and not-so-funny trips into scary moral territory. The novel is set near the Canada-United States border and crosses that border to tell a pair of stories that converge to pack a tough and thoroughly contemporary punch.

Craig Rintoul

bookbits.ca

“A great first novel.”

Shlomo Schwartzberg

Canadian Jewish News

“Well-written, smart, keenly observed, often funny and utterly suspenseful.”

Marian Misters

National Post

“Howard Shrier's debut novel is a winner.”

Canadian author Howard Shrier’s first novel, Buffalo Jump, is a winner.

Jim Napier

Sherbrooke Record

“A fine debut novel, and readers will want to keep an eye out for its sequel, High Chicago.”

Pop quiz for all Canadian mystery fans: name the creator (hint: first name Howard) of a fictional Jewish private investigator based in southern Ontario.  If you said Howard Engel, it would be under-standable.  One of Canada’s best-loved crime writers (and member of the Order of Canada), Engel has regaled readers for decades with the exploits of his loveable schmuck Benny Cooperman, a PI located in the fictional town of Grantham, Ontario.  However, there’s a new Howard on the horizon, and his protagonist bears only a passing resem-blance to Engel’s creation.  No schmuck, he is tougher, slightly grittier, and strictly a big-city sleuth; he is, in fact, a Cooperman for the new millennium.

Born and raised in Montreal, Howard Shrier graduated with honours in journalism and creative writing from Concordia University.  He has worked as a crime reporter and as a writer for the radio news, as well as in theatre and television, and as a senior communi-cations advisor to various government agencies.
Howard lives with his wife and sons in Toronto where, admitting to a certain fondness for single malts, he writes above a bar and café in Toronto’s Annex neighborhood.

Ex-Israeli soldier and Toronto private investigator Jonah Geller is not having an especially good year.  He’s recover-ing from having been shot when a tobacco-smuggling case he was working went wrong, getting a good cop para-lyzed in the process.  His girlfriend walked out on him while he was still in the hospital, and his boss has put him on probation until he can demonstrate that he’s up to the job.

Just when Jonah thought things couldn’t get worse, Dante Ryan, a hit man for the mobster he failed to put away, approaches Geller with an offer he can’t refuse: he wants Jonah to take him on as a client.

Geller is not one to take a challenge lightly.  He could, of course, simply refuse the case.  Or could he?  It turns out that the killer has been given a contract he doesn’t want to fulfill: it involves killing a man and his wife and child.  It goes against the hit man’s own code of ethics—you read right—and he wants to know who ordered the hit, and why.  If Geller takes the case, he might just be able to prevent the killings from taking place, and beneath all the tough-guy persona, Jonah Geller is a deeply moral man.

At the same time, an office colleague, François Paradis, asks for Geller’s help.  The mother of a client has died recently in Meadowvale, a local nursing home, and the client wonders whether someone there was at fault.  Sidelined from bigger cases, his career pretty much on hold, Geller agrees to help.
At first things seem simple enough.  He runs a background check on the Meadowvale and it comes up clean.  But when he and a colleague visit the facility under the guise of looking to place their mother there, and are unmasked, they encounter a burly man with a gun and are forced to flee for their lives.
Meanwhile, Geller’s investigation into the hit man’s target seems to have stalled.  The man is a respected member of the community, with an upmarket home and the sole owner of a thriving pharmacy.  Why would anyone want his entire family killed?

In nearby Buffalo the drug business operates on a whole different level.  Barry Aiken, one of life’s failures living on the edge of despair, is dependent on a black-market dealer for affordable meds.  When he arrives at the dealer’s house and finds him dead, Barry’s first thought is to panic.  Unfortunately, he goes with his second thought, which is to scoop up all the drugs he can, take them home, and sell them to his friends.  His dealer’s death will be Barry’s own ticket out of poverty.  A great idea, if only the killer wasn’t just outside, watching Barry’s every move.

A conscientious man, Jonah Geller works the nursing-home case while he tries to discover who would want an innocuous pharmacist dead.  Of course, he has to keep the latter case to himself; not only is he in disgrace with his boss for mishandling the tobacco-smuggling case, but having a hit man for a client isn’t exactly the sort of thing you can tell your boss—or the police—about.  Geller is forced, then, to walk a tortuous path between the law, loyalty to his boss, and his own code of ethics as he tries to solve these puzzles.  That path will lead to attacks on innocent bystanders, Geller himself, and more than one death before things are finally sorted.

My Recommendation
Buffalo Jump has a definite Neo-Noir flavour, combining tough-guy action, snappy dialogue, and a flawed prota-gonist, set against a gritty background.  The justice is cosmic, rather than legal, with Geller taking matters into his own hands, and although the tone of the story is permeated by a jaded outlook, it is still grounded in a strong sense of right and wrong.  Nicely-paced, the action is inter-spersed with a strong backstory fleshing out Jonah Geller’s conflicted past and making him both a believable and a sympathetic character.  Buffalo Jump is a fine debut novel, and readers will want to keep an eye out for its sequel, High Chicago, which is slated for publication in 2009.

Brenda Ough

LibraryThing

“This story takes off and never stops. There is no doubt that Shrier will be compared to Robert Parker.”

When a grieving mother comes to Toronto private investigator Jonah Geller wanting to find answers about her daughter’s alleged suicide, this story takes off and never stops. Jonah and his sidekicks discover the dirty business going on in the high stakes world of waterfront construction.

The story starts in Toronto but halfway moves to Chicago where Jonah finds he has bitten off more than he can chew, and needs his friend, former hit man Dante Ryan, and his partner, beautiful Jenn Raudsepp, to help him.

This is the first Howard Shrier novel I have read but it won’t be the last. It is the second in the series featuring the private investigator Jonah Geller, the first being a novel called Buffalo Jump. There are some incidents alluded to in High Chicago that I am guessing are in the first book.

The things I admire the most about High Chicago is the development of good strong characters...Jonah is a guy I wouldn’t mind watching my back (he is as good as Parker’s Spencer) and I really liked the secondary characters Dante and Jenn. In fact, to me they have been developed as well or better than Parker’s. There is no doubt that Shrier will be compared to Robert Parker. There are a lot of similarities and someone looking for that style won’t be disappointed.

Setting was nicely drawn too. I’ve never been to Chicago but almost felt like I had after I read this book. However, if you’re afraid of heights, it may make you a little nervous at times...it’s not called High Chicago for nothing! There are not a lot of surprises in this book...the bad guys are obvious from the start, with the possible exception of one. However, that doesn’t seem to matter.  It ‘s all about how one deals with a villain who seems untouchable.  Plus, there is plenty of physical action and some great dialogue.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book and will probably read Buffalo Jump and also any future offerings by Shrier if they are this good. 

J.D. Singh

Owner, Sleuth of Baker Street

“Great fun...[Shrier] writes with a deft, witty touch.”

Howard Shrier has written his first novel, Buffalo Jump ($19.95) and it’s a winner. Part of the charm of the novel, of course, is that it is set in Toronto. Though this can be a double edged sword—always looking for mistakes of fact or geography, and, fortunately, there were none of any significance—it’s great fun to read a novel set in the city. Howard writes with a deft, witty touch and our hero, Jonah Geller has lots of Jewish wit and wisdom to relate.

Kelley Armstrong

Bestselling Author of the Women of the Otherworld Series

“Thrilling and thoughtful.”

Shrier’s gritty yet vibrant Toronto makes the perfect backdrop for a crime story that is both thrilling and thoughtful.

Linwood Barclay

Bestselling Author of No Time for Goodbye

“I can't wait for Jonah Geller's next case.”

Buffalo Jump jumps right off the page. It’s a barrelling freight train of a mystery and I can’t wait for Jonah Geller’s next case.

Yvonne Klein

reviewingtheevidence.com

“A strong and individual voice...contemporary, appealing and fresh.”

Jonah Geller would not call himself a nice Jewish boy. He never finished college, he works as a private detective for an agency that largely does surveillance work, he likes ham and eggs for breakfast and doesn’t call his mother enough. He suffers from intense and troubling nightmares about his service in the Israeli army, as a result of which he has a profound reluctance to fire a gun.

When Dante Ryan, notorious contract killer working for mob boss Marco Di Pietra, turns up in Jonah’s kitchen uninvited, Jonah expects the worst. Instead, Ryan asks for Geller’s help. He has been landed with a contract assignment he doesn’t want to fulfill - to wipe out an entire Toronto family, down to the five-year-old son - and Dante, who also has a little boy, can’t bring himself to do it. If he doesn’t, however, he will be dead meat. So he wants Jonah to find out who really wants the family dead and why. Perhaps then he can get some kind of leverage that will at least spare the child.

Jonah is none too happy about any of this. He is, after all, still recuperating from a gunshot wound received in his last, unhappy, encounter with Ryan and his boss. But his early religious instruction kicks in. The responsibility to repair the world, tikkun olam, is one he takes very seriously. Much as he would prefer a quiet life, he cannot ignore Ryan’s appeal for help.

The two are unlikely partners and one of the pleasures of this book is observing how each affects the other. It’s an edgy relationship, certainly - Dante has killed a lot of people and is touchy about being reminded of it - and Jonah has a smart mouth. By the end, however, each has changed in response to the other, though happily there is nothing sentimental about the transformation.

This is a first novel and could have done with a little editing, as can most first novels. It is surprisingly sure-footed all the same. Jonah Geller has a strong and individual voice, the plot elements are handled with assurance and, even though the body count is rather high, they all get dead in credible ways. The Toronto of this book will not bring back any of the tourists the high Canadian dollar has discouraged, but it is a city with a strong personality of its own.

There has as yet been no promise of further adventures of Jonah Geller, though the possibility is certainly present at the end. I do hope to see him in the very near future. He is contemporary, appealing, and fresh in several senses of the word. 

Don Graves

Hamilton Spectator

“A well-juggled storyline brimming with dry humour… a must-read for summer.”

Blunt action, realistically and graphically described and paced with just enough time to catch your breath before the next sudden eruption. Add the right feel for dialogue, a plot and writing that’s just the ideal temperature for a mystery-thriller and you have Buffalo Jump–a debut novel winner by Howard Shrier.

Toronto PI Jonah Geller arrives home prepared to nurse his wounds, emotional and physical, with booze and pain pills. There to help is a contract killer with a deal he can’t refuse–help me and you go on living, don’t help me and…

The killer has been ordered to kill an entire family–husband, wife and child. The husband, that’s the nature of the business. The wife, perhaps collateral damage. But the child is a different matter. Geller’s job is to find out the identity of the contractor.

A scheme to supply Americans with cheaper, life-saving Canadian drugs, a conflict within an organized crime family and Geller’s capacity to attract trouble and annoy his Jewish mother and the local police creates a strangely enduring bond between PI and contract killer.

The result is a debut novel with a well-juggled storyline brimming with dry humour, a cast of oddball characters, and graphic scenes that come alive with action. A must-read for summer.

Rene Balcer

Executive Producer, Law & Order; Creator, Law & Order: Criminal Intent

“Shrier nails his first crime novel with the aplomb and impact of a seasoned pro.”

A cast of compelling oddballs; a complex, funny and always surprising hero and a plot as fresh and twisty as yesterday’s headlines–Shrier juggles them all and nails his first crime novel with the aplomb and impact of a seasoned pro. A completely satisfying read that made me wish Jonah Geller could work cases on my shows.

Guelph Mercury

“Top-notch, a page-turner to rate with the best of them.”

Jonah Geller is a man with many troubles. His wife has just kicked him out of their home and he has screwed up a major smuggling case in his role as security officer for a Toronto company.

So after recuperating from a gunshot wound, Geller finds himself doing minor jobs for the security firm. And he’s shocked when a notorious mob killer called Dante Ryan breaks into his apartment.

Ryan wants Geller’s help in tracking down the person who ordered a mob hit on a druggist, his wife and five-year-old son. Seems an illegal pill route into Buffalo for Canadian drugs is causing trouble in the world of organized crime.

What follows is ferocious action as Ryan and Geller attempt to hunt down the perpetrators, or “perps” as the police call them.

This first book by Shrier is top-notch, a page-turner to rate with the best of them and with some memorable characters. It also contains just the right dose of cynicism and dark humour, both of which mark the best of the private-eye novels.

Sarah Weinman

Quill and Quire

“A strong, clear voice with a wry sense of humour… continues the tradition of Robert B. Parker and Robert Crais.”

Contemporary Canadian crime writers are not exactly plentiful in number, and Toronto’s Howard Shrier is a welcome addition to their ranks. Shrier, a former broadcaster, knows his way around genre conventions: his protagonist, detective Jonah Geller, cracks wise at every opportunity about his tenuous employment with investigative firm Beacon Security and his slippery hold on relationships with women. Geller has tasked himself with “repairing the world, one asshole at a time.” He gets into a heap of trouble with his sidekick, a reluctant hitman, frequently ending up bloodied and bruised.

But Shrier adds welcome flourishes. Geller’s exploration of his Jewishness imbues the book with extra depth and resonance. Hitman Dante Ryan’s reason for teaming up with Geller – an outright refusal to kill his client’s child – has the whiff of contrivance, but becomes believable as the sparring duo conduct a clandestine investigation into cross-border pharmaceutical smuggling that also ties into one of Geller’s past cases.

Though the book’s first 50 pages are full of unnecessary expository baggage, the final pages roar with plot twists and devastating consequences. Geller is changed by the violence that occurs, all of it a result of greed mixed with sociopathic ambition.

Buffalo Jump (a code word for a smuggling trip to and from the upstate New York city) doesn’t break new ground, but it does introduce a strong, clear voice with a wry sense of humour. Geller’s description of a co-worker as having “the computer skills of an early hominid” or his belief that “one should never commit one’s premeditated murder without a nutritious breakfast” continue the tradition of Robert B. Parker and Robert Crais with a hearty and promising Maple Leaf twist.

Margaret Cannon

Globe and Mail

“A great debut novel... A terrific opening to what is certainly going to be a fine series.”

Buffalo Jump is a great debut novel from Montreal-born Torontonian Shrier, and it introduces PI Jonah Geller in what is certainly going to be a fine series. The plot is tight, the characters engaging, and this one even has a believable - and sympathetic - bad guy.

The story opens with Geller, a consultant with Beacon Security in Toronto, having a really bad day. First, there’s the nightmare that kept him up all night. Also, his arm isn’t completely healed from the bullet that went through it during a job that he screwed up royally. His car won’t start and, on the TTC ride to Beacon, he’s accosted by an anti-Semitic bully. All that before 8:30 a.m.

This is a clever background for a complex character, one about to be hired on a unique job. That evening, as Geller returns to his apartment, a contract killer named Dante Ryan is waiting. Ryan has been hired to kill a pharmacist. But the unknown person who hired him also wants him to take out the pharmacist’s wife and five-year-old son. It seems even a hired killer has scruples. Ryan wants Geller to get him the information he needs to get the deal cancelled.

This clever device leads Geller into the crime world of Toronto’s Golden Horseshoe, down to depressed Buffalo and back. It also opens up the festering wound of his failure in what Beacon Security calls The Tobacco Debacle, where Geller was shot. This is a terrific opening to what is sure to become a solid series.

ReadingLounge

Vaughan Public Library

“Welcome to the menacing world of Howard Shrier’s Toronto! ”

Guns, knives, bats, and the Don. Welcome to the menacing world of Howard Shrier’s Toronto! Welcome to Buffalo Jump. There’s even a Mafia Don or two thrown in, to balance out the threat of the river.

Jonah Geller is a nice Jewish boy who can’t seem to live up to the promise his mother sees in him. A licensed private investigator with Beacon Security, he has had a few too many run-ins with other guys’ fists for her taste. But Jonah is good at what he does. Or he was until that Ensign case.

So why is Dante Ryan, mob assassin, showing up everywhere Jonah goes? And what does the death of an old lady in a nursing home have to do with a mob hit on an entire family—father, mother and five-year-old son? Jonah will find out, even if it takes everything his fists and wits can muster.

This one is not for the faint of heart, or for those who like their murders nice and tidy.  But if you are looking for a blood-soaked PI thriller that does not shy away from the ethical complications of violence in a violent world, Jonah Geller might just be the investigator for you. Follow this one up with High Chicago, Shrier’s second Geller novel.

Top