When publicist Wiley Saichek invited me to select a title for review from the upcoming releases of his client, Down and Out Books, I chose Spying Moon by Sandra Ruttan. I'd never read anything by this author previously, nor had I read a police procedural dealing with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The only crime author that I've blogged about who writes books that take place in Canada is Ausma Zehanat Khan whose protagonists work for the Toronto Police. (See my review of Khan's The Unquiet Dead here. I considered it the best mystery I read in 2017.) The RCMP is a national police force. I knew very little about them before starting this book. I received a free copy for review from the publisher via Wiley Saichek.
The title is apparently derived from a legend about the North American indigenous trickster deity, Coyote, replacing the moon and spying on people. I found a similar tale to the one mentioned in Spying Moon here. You will need to scroll down to find the story. It's credited as a myth of the Kalispel people who have a reservation in the U.S. state of Washington.
Ruttan's protagonist is an RCMP constable who is female. According to the RCMP Official Website, there were women working for them as constables as early as 1900. Currently, one fifth of RCMP officers are women. The central character Kendall Moreau was assigned to a town called Maple River which seems to be fictional.
Moreau's missing mother was of First Nations descent. This is how Canada refers to its indigenous population. Moreau was a child when her mother disappeared, and she had no other family that was known to the authorities. She was placed into foster care. This means that she knows nothing of her First Nations heritage. In a more typical narrative centered on a character with this background, Moreau would have been studying with a medicine woman in order to get back to her roots. This doesn't happen in Spying Moon. Although Moreau was disappointed not to be in a position where she can work on her mother's very cold case, readers can expect her to be a professional who is focused on solving crimes. She doesn't allow any prejudice or harassment that she encounters to stop her from doing her job. I found her admirable.
The male partners that Moreau works with in her assignments are more ambivalent figures whose motives become more clear over the course of the narrative.
Since Moreau is dealing with multiple investigations simultaneously, there is a large cast of minor characters. Sometimes Ruttan reminds us briefly of the role that they play, but not always. There were a couple of occasions when I needed to page through my notes to refresh my memory about how these miscellaneous individuals fit into their respective cases. This is my only criticism of Spying Moon.
I learned all sorts of interesting details about police procedures. For example, CSI didn't just bag the contents of a victim's high school locker. They removed the entire locker to dust for fingerprints and test for DNA. There were also numerous plot twists and dramatic confrontations. Ruttan is an experienced writer who knows how to build suspense.
I look forward to reading future novels about the adventures of Kendall Moreau in the RCMP. Perhaps she may investigate cases that involve First Nations individuals or communities. Yet she could be dealing with numerous types of ethnicities that reflect the diversity of 21st century Canadian society. I have confidence in Moreau's ability to handle all the situations that might arise in the course of her career, and Ruttan's ability to portray them.