“The Goldfish Bowl“, winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel from the Crime Writers of Canada is the first of thirteen police procedural novels featuring Detectives Willows and Parker. It was originally published in 1987.
An elusive serial sniper is on the loose in the dark, rain-swept streets of Vancouver, Canada.
Maverick veteran detective Jack Willows and his new partner, the beautiful Claire Parker, are assigned to bring him–or her–in.
But the case takes an unexpected and dangerous turn when the detectives discover that the sniper’s victims aren’t as random as originally thought . . . and that the sniper seems to know their every move before they make it.
Seemingly random people are being shot by a sniper in downtown Vancouver. The police are baffled. Sketchy eyewitness testimony relates that the sniper is a blond female, wearing a shiny mauve raincoat and white high-heeled shoes.
Various short chapters are written from the point of view of the sniper. The sniper refers to himself as a ‘he’, so the reader is alerted to the fact that he dresses in drag. Unlike other serial killers I have read about, he does not seem to enjoy his kills. He refers to his situation as being ‘out of control’.
He cries himself to sleep…
At first there are two police partnerships described.
Willows and Parker: A new partnership. Claire Parker is an attractive twenty-eight year old. She has been partnered with Willows after his previous partner was hospitalized for cancer. Jack Willows is a veteran cop, married, though not currently living with his wife.
Franklin and Atkinson: Partners for a little over two years. Franklin is a married man, large and somewhat slovenly. Atkinson is single, short, and a ‘ladies man’. I found him an unsympathetic character while the long-suffering Franklin was more likable.
When ‘the sniper’ kills Dave Atkinson, one of their own, they become even more committed to apprehending the suspect and making the streets of Vancouver safer. Although they didn’t always get along, Franklin takes the loss of his partner very hard. He loses weight and turns to alcohol.
One thing I liked about this novel is that the author introduces the reader to the victims, so that the reader has a more emotional response when reading of their demise.
The setting of contemporary Vancouver lends a gritty urban slant to this novel. I quite enjoyed the writing style and I learned just enough about these characters that I am interested in following them further in the series. The story seemed a little ‘dated’, but we must remember it was originally published in 1987. The ending had a twist that I really didn’t see coming. To date there are thirteen Willows and Parker novels, many of which have won awards.
I received my digital copy of this novel from Endeavor Press via NetGalley.
Laurence Gough was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and studied at Simon Fraser University. In addition to his books, Gough has written many radio dramas for the CBC. His international thriller, Sandstorm, won the Author Award (fiction) from the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters in 1991. He lives in Vancouver with his wife and two children.