I may never get over the thrill of reading something set in my home town. Or, in this case, in the fictional town of Kootenay Landing, which bears a striking resemblance to my hometown of Creston. It’s so much fun to picture where a character is walking, or imagine the exact view from a hiking trail.
Deryn Collier’s Open Secret is her second novel featuring Bern Fortin, coroner with swag. The book weaves together the lives of a mismatched batch of Kootenay Landing residents, all connected by a disappearance, a grow-op, and a murder. We begin to understand more of Bern’s history and we get to know an array of unique secondary characters. I would have read an entire book about any member of the supporting cast.
Back to reading about one’s hometown, though. My favourite line of the book is this one:
There was an intake of breath, a barely perceptible pause, when the man walked in, as though the crowd had collectively spotted him, assessed him as an outsider, decided to ignore him, then carried on.
This is a classic small town moment — the micro-pause upon entering a restaurant or bar, while all pre-existing customers check to see whether they know you. It’s generally a benign, even friendly, pause, but it’s noticeable. And if you happen to take your Asian husband to a cafe in Three Mile, Idaho, where apparently no Asian man has gone before, the pause stretches to five or ten seconds and can be rather disconcerting.
Kudos to Deryn Collier for creating a riveting read and capturing the quirks of small-town life.