I read most of Vicki Delany's mystery series, but the Constable Molly Smith mystery series set in Trafalgar, British Columbia is my favorite. The police procedurals are set in a fascinating town with a mixture of tourists, hippies who moved there during the Vietnam war and stayed to become activists, and righteous townspeople. And, Delany brings them together in Unreasonable Doubt. Molly Smith saw it as "a passionate town, full of passionate people." That's sometimes difficult for the police to handle.
After twenty-five years, Walter Desmond chose to return to Trafalgar. He had been convicted of the brutal murder of a young woman, but he's now been officially exonerated because his lawyer showed that the police had been either incompetent in their investigation, or corrupt. Walt only wants to know why the police targeted him. But, there are townspeople, including some cops and former cops, and the family of the victim, who still think he's guilty. And the attempted rape of a shop owner soon after Walt returns only heightens their anger.
Sergeant John Winters doubts that Walt was guilty twenty-five years earlier, and the description of the current suspect doesn't match Walt's. It's up to Winters to reopen the old case, pouring over the shoddy investigation, looking for answers. While he questions belligerent retirees and family members, Constable Molly Smith works the streets, trying to deal with the angry emotions stirred up by memories, fear, and the heat. It won't take much to bring tempers to a boiling point, and time after time, Molly has to step in to prevent violence. Even the police who are sympathetic wish Walt hadn't returned to Trafalgar. Why would anyone want to return to a town where people still view him with suspicion?
Delany's latest mystery may be her most powerful one. It deals not only with a cold case and the behavior of the police in the past, but it also examines mob mentality. Why do people come together in fear, targeting the person they suspect? Is it possible for someone to return to the scene of a crime they did not commit without suspicion falling on them again? It's sad to see a story in which the outsiders, tourists and newcomers to the town, are the ones most likely to give Walt the benefit of the doubt.
Delany has created intriguing characters, particularly Molly Smith, John Winters, and Molly's mother, Lucky. This time, though, the residents of the town almost become one large character, judgmental, fearful, and angry. Unreasonable Doubt is a thought-provoking, powerful mystery; possibly Vicki Delany's best.
Vicki Delany's website is www.vickidelany.com
Unreasonable Doubt by Vicki Delany. Poisoned Pen Press. 2016. ISBN 9781464205132 (hardcover), 266p.
FTC full disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, upon my request.