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An already uneasy weekend house party on a Toronto lawyer's estate turns deadly when one guest stumbles on the body of another, bringing Manziuk and Ryan to take on their first challenge as a team.
With matchmaking on her mind, Ellen Brodie looks forward to a quiet weekend with her husband, her son, and her favorite cousin’s attractive daughter, Lorry Preston, who is visiting from Alberta. But the weekend is doomed when Ellen's husband invites his two legal partners and their quarreling wives; one of the legal partners includes his wife’s wallflower sister; Ellen’s son brings his devastatingly handsome best friend; a black sheep nephew shows up; and a new neighbor descends on them because of renovations. If that wasn’t enough, Lorry discovers a body in the Japanese garden.
The law arrives in the persons of series characters Detective-Inspector Paul Manziuk and Detective Constable Jaqueline Ryan.
Paul Manziuk is a born cop who is tired. Maybe he’s having a mid-life crisis; maybe it’s the recent changes in the department; maybe just too many bad guys and too much work. In any case, he’s a workaholic who hates incompetence and strives always to produce, not simply an acceptable solution, but the right solution.
A high school graduate, he started at the bottom, as a lowly cop on the beat, and has worked his way up to Inspector, which is as much responsibility as he wants. He’s an honest man, hard-working and not particularly well-off. He has a long-suffering wife, Loretta, who is also of Ukrainian ancestry, two sons aged 23 and 17, and a 21-year-old daughter.
A big man, Manziuk is six foot five and two hundred thirty-five pounds, some of it bulging a bit in the stomach area. He’s 47 years old, with dark brown hair, balding on top. He has strong features, not precisely handsome, but not unhandsome. Because of his size and his thorough attention to detail, at first glance he appears slow and ponderous of body and of mind, but actually he has fluid body movement and a quick mind with a dry sense of humor. He cares, not only about people but about stopping evil, and since a caring cop is an easy mark, he uses gruffness as a wall of protection.
Jacqueline Ryan is an eager young cop who knows she’s been promoted primarily because she is a black woman and therefore a double minority. However, she doesn’t hesitate to grasp the opportunity with both hands. She’s determined to prove not only that she deserved the promotion but also that she can be as good as any cop in the department—including Manziuk.
Ryan is 28, single, and of Jamaican ancestry. She’s had a rather unstable home life, including her father's death when she was 11, followed by her mother's remarriage and then divorce from a somewhat violent white man. Ryan lives at home, along with her mom, her grandmother, her aunt Vida, and her cousin Precious, so her extended family is a strong factor in her life.
Ryan is intelligent, rather fearless, extroverted, creative, and determined. She tends to hide her fears or uncertainty under a veneer of humor. But her tongue can be sharp as a needle if her crusading spirit is touched.
Ryan has a university degree in psychology and an advanced degree in criminology, with marks at the top of her class. She’s fought hard for her education and her position, and she finds it very difficult to relax her defenses. Her life revolves around her career. Keeping her mind sharp, her hand steady, eating healthy, exercising regularly—everything is focused on her success as a policewoman. She sees men as rivals and has little interest in dating. Just another distraction. As for a home and family—maybe—in ten years or so, but only if she changes a lot.
Jacquie continued to pace the tiny area, using her hands to punctuate each sentence. “What I’ve heard is he comes down like a ton of bricks on anybody who makes a mistake. And you know what else? He reminds me of a teacher I had in grade six. Big man, stomach the size of an oven, never so much as a hint of a smile. Hey, we thought if he ever did smile, he might literally crack his face. Well, that’s who Manziuk reminds me of.” Jacquie paused to arrange her features into a deadpan, chin thrust out, lips in a thin line, eyes cold and hard.
Bev laughed, then became serious. “But Manziuk’s good, Jacquie. Everybody says so.”
Jacquie’s face relaxed, but she resumed pacing. “He’s one of the best. But I’m still nervous when I think about having to work with him. Who knows what he’ll think of me?”
“What’s to think? You’re a good cop. You graduated near the top of your class in criminology. You paid your dues in narcotics and juvenile. You just spent a year in vice.”
“But he’s old school. Worked his way up step by step. And the word is he doesn’t have any time for cops who learn the business at university. And then there’s my age. I’m only twenty-eight. How many homicide detectives are that young? Not to mention the fact I’m a woman. And black. And we both know that’s why I got the promotion.”
“Jacquie, that’s not true!”
“Grow up, Bev! I’m not complaining. But I know perfectly well the police force has a mandate to promote more blacks and more women. So here I am—two for the price of one!”
“But you’re a good cop!”
“Sure I am, honey. I just have to keep proving it to everybody.”
“Well, don’t get in a knot over it. He works with Detective-Sergeant Craig all the time. Maybe you’ll never even have to go near Manziuk.”
“I sure hope not. At least not till I know my way around.”
The phone on Beverly’s desk rang. After answering it, she held the receiver out to Jacquie. “You may have to put that celebration on hold. Homicide is looking for you.”