R. J. McMillen’s Dan Connor mystery series is the work of a consummate story-teller. Their plots are forged around inventive premises and their ever-unfolding riddles keep the reader craving the turn of the next page from beginning to end.
All of these books share an overarching theme of respect both for the environment and for Native peoples whose ancient life lessons often present themselves as startlingly relevant to today’s world. All are set against the rich backdrop of British Columbia’s islands, waterways, and the wildlife which inhabits both. Verdant forests, winds, and tides are so seamlessly woven into the plots that they become virtual characters in stories that could have been set nowhere else.
McMillen has the ability to write in a way that resonates for an audience not constricted by the mystery genre. Readers need not be mystery buffs to appreciate them, but whodunit fans will find them more than satisfying. Readers need not be seafarers to appreciate them, either, but sailors and fishermen will recognize in McMillen’s descriptions of life on the water the unmistakable ring of authenticity. These are books that cannot help but seduce city slickers and landlubbers alike with the call of the wild.
These books are full of unique and memorable characters crisply drawn, and McMillen works hard to avoid mystery genre stereotypes. Settings and dialogue are seamlessly interwoven to paint each of the principal characters as complex and colorful mosaics.
Protagonist Dan Connor, retired early from anti-terrorist beat, is guilt and grief-stricken after his wife is brutally murdered in what is hinted at as a consequence of his work. He’s retreated to life on his boat to salve his grief and sort out his life, but when events return him to informal police work, he finds in it an unlikely therapy for his grief and guilt. His ongoing quest to exorcise his personal demons compellingly binds these books together, and each leaves the reader craving not only the resolution of the crime-du-jour, but hope for Connor’s emotional rehabilitation.
Walker is a Native American crippled years earlier by a fall in a Vancouver robbery gone bad that ended with his arrest by Conner. Upon his release from prison, he returns to his ancestral home and lifestyle among the islands, where he reconnects by happenstance with his captor. The two gradually form an unlikely, yet unbreakable bond.
Many of the revelations drawn from Native culture are presented through Walker’s words and deeds, which run through plot and dialogue like a bright thread. He is likeable – if often cryptic – and has admirably managed to reconcile himself to life as a cripple without surrendering to his disability. His wry sense of humor is often driven by the contrasts between his culture and Connor’s, but their banter is always marked by mutual respect.
Walker’s age-old, low-tech resolutions for otherwise unsolvable dilemmas continually call into question not only the limits of technology, but the values which drive today’s techno-focused society.
It hard to imagine two characters more well-suited to engage in such a dialogue, or to guide readers through the discourse more invitingly.
These books honor the tradition of the great ’40’s and ’50’s mystery novelists. In McMillen’s tales there are no psychic profilers, CSI forensics, or electronic surveillance, and yet despite their old-fashioned reliance on little more than intuition and powers of deduction they are as contemporary as the war on terrorism.
The Dan Connor books are more than simple mysteries. They are odes to the natural beauty and symbiosis of a world unspoiled by modern civilization, and to a Native race that has always respected it and understood its place in it.
Find all four of them here on Amazon.
Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.
(Posted by Antonio Ramblés.)
(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)