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None So Blind

by Barbara Fradkin

With the 10th novel in her Inspector Green mystery series, Ottawa writer Barbara Fradkin demonstrates just why two of the earlier instalments have been awarded the Arthur Ellis from the Crime Writers of Canada. None So Blind is a thoughtful, well-written mystery that challenges readerly expectations while embracing the tropes of the genre wholeheartedly.

None So Blind (Barbara Fradkin)Fradkin’s latest finds Green settling somewhat uncomfortably into life as an inspector with the Ottawa police service (“He searched for words to describe what he enjoyed about his job and was surprised when none came to mind”), adjusting to yet another new superintendent, and facing the complications of being a later-in-life harried husband and father. He is also the recipient of intermittent letters from James Rosten, who is serving a life sentence for murder. The letters – all professing innocence and offering alternate suspects – have been coming since Green, then a young detective working his first major case, arrested the former university professor for the murder of one of his students.

As Rosten’s parole hearing approaches, Green is forced to take a hard look at the cold case, and his own actions. Was he responsible for a rush to judgment? Did he imprison an innocent man? Has Rosten been telling the truth all along?

Despite being focused on past events, None So Blind unfolds with a forceful forward momentum (spurred on by the appearance, not unexpectedly, of new bodies and new questions). Fradkin handles her sprawling setting, large cast of characters, and broad timeframe with a casual ease: her pacing is measured and cool, heating up precisely when it needs to and avoiding potential histrionics.

Yes, there is a bit too much repetition of evidence and potential suspects (surely mystery readers can remember that sort of thing), and the dialogue, especially in the novel’s closing chapters, takes on an uncomfortable, almost portentous earnestness. But these are minor quibbles. None So Blind is an assured read, the sort of mystery readers will find both enthralling and comforting.