It's 1911 in the "wickedest city in the Dominion," and Sam, in his first recorded appearance (The Blood Libel, 1997), is just another tough guy for hire, working as a bouncer in a local brothel. Then he's persuaded to look into the murder of a Polish working girl - a murder that's being blamed on a North End rabbi. Suffice it to say that Winnipeg at the time wasn't exactly known for its friendly attitude towards Jews.
But Sam must have persevered and ultimately done okay, because he's since shown up in a second novel, Sins of the Suffragette, which takes place a few years later, wherein he's chucked the brothel gig, to look into the mysterious death of a suffragette, and encounters real-life feminist activist Nellie McClung. And more are promised in this series.
There's some pretty good local and historical colour in this series, and Levine really seems to capture the feel of the turn-of-the-century Prairie town where immigrants from the city's tough-and-tumble North End struggle to find an identity in a world dominated by white middle-class WASPs and their would-be pretensions.
But then, Allan Levine should know his stuff. He's primarily known as a Canadian historian and educator, author of the award-winning non-fiction title Fugitives of the Forest, or at least he was, until he penned The Blood Libel, which was short-listed for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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