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Monday, 15 July 2013

Review: Once Upon a Time, Barbara Fradkin (Canada: Ontario)

Title: Once Upon a Time
Author: Barbara Fradkin
Publication: 2002/Toronto: RendezVous Press
ISBN #: 0-929141-84-9
# of pages: 254
Discovered at Crime Writers of Canada
Read in paper format
Also available in e-book format
Link to author’s website:

 Despite the cold Ottawa winter, an old man waits in the car while his wife attends her hospital appointment. By the time she returns, he is face down in the snow, dead.

The autopsy states the death was from natural causes, an elderly person in poor health with nothing but a small gash on his forehead. Staff Sergeant Sullivan of the Major Crimes department attended the scene and agrees with this result.  But his friend and boss Inspector Green is bored, despite the stack of paper on his desk and this small gash bothers him. Or maybe it just distracts him from bureaucratic paperwork that he doesn’t want to do.

Green decides to take a small break and make a few inquiries. In doing so, he manages to upset the pathologist, the deceased man’s family and his staff sergeant. He can’t find a logical explanation for the gash and combined with a witness to a possible second person in the car, Green decides he must continue to pick away at these few threads.

He is also supposed to be helping his wife Sharon organize their son’s first birthday party but as the investigation heats up, his work time quickly eats into his personal life. Green knows he needs to better balance the two as he has already been through one divorce as a result of his singular focus on his job but the case starts to become personal and he is soon caught up in events that occurred many years before, in Poland during World War II.

The author starts each chapter with a tantalizing poem, dating back to WWII. This is part of her strong character development. All the characters seem real, people who could be your next door neighbours. The book weaves the past and the present together well, leaving the motive in doubt until the end. Green’s struggles with both his work and family roles ring true, and you like him, despite his flaws.

Several interesting aspects of WWII are explored, particularly the life altering decisions ordinary citizens had to make, choices that sometimes are only horrific with the (apparent) clarity of hindsight. As one character says “No one is a saint who survived the ghettos. All the saints died."

This book caught my attention from the beginning and challenged me to the end. I can`t wait to read more of this series.     Rating: (^_°)       Intriguing

Author Fradkin was a child psychologist for many years before retiring to write full time, a pastime she had started at the tender age of six. The Inspector Green series totals nine books so far, two of which have won the Crime Writers of Canada's Arthur Ellis award for Best Novel. ("Once Upon a Time" was shortlisted for the award.) She has also written numerous short stories, started the Cedric O`Toole mystery series for reluctant or emerging adult readers, and is a member of the Ladies’ Killing Circle which edits short story anthologies.



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