David Russell

The Hamilton Spectator
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December 23, 2006, page D6
by Don Graves
Deadly Lessons

By David Russell.

Rendezvous Crime, $13.95

Winston Patrick, divorced Vancouver lawyer turned insomniac high school teacher, faces the ultimate teacher's nightmare -- accusations of sexual impropriety with a student or predatory sex as the press labels it.

Patrick isn't the culprit, but parents and colleagues make him feel that way: Instead he finds himself the defence counsel for the accused, a dedicated, well-loved colleague. Shortly thereafter the victim is found murdered and the alleged lover becomes the prime suspect. The parents, colleagues and one particular cop turn against Patrick for defending the rogue teacher. As the body count rises and an international incident appears imminent, Patrick realizes that being at the short end of the community's temper is the least of his problems. Is he to be the next victim and why silence him for just doing his job?

David Russell's thoughtful debut novel, Deadly Lessons, is a provocative and well-written winner.

The story line is painfully real and Russell handles it with compassion and hard reality. The classroom dialogue feels so real you can close your eyes and find yourself in the stress-driven classroom.

The politics, the parent group and the school setting are detailed with compelling tension along with the convincing and shocking conclusion.

Deadly Lessons is an attention-getting debut worthy of all the praise it's sure to receive.


Canadian crime and mystery writing had a stellar year in 2006, demonstrating again the maturity that this community of writers has attained.

Here are my picks for the best from among an exciting and long list of potentials:

* Peter Robinson, Piece of My Heart, is the showcase 16th novel featuring one of Canada's most acclaimed literary characters, Inspector Banks.

* Giles Blunt, By The Time You Read This, is the 4th novel featuring Northern Ontario Detective John Cardinal as he faces a personal hell as he balances his professionally vulnerable life.

* Maureen Jennings, Vices of My Blood, is the 6th Detective Murdoch mystery that confirms Jennings' place as a Master of the history-mystery.

* Louise Penny, Still Life, is her debut novel featuring Quebec cop, Inspector Armand Ganache. Penny has achieved a serious position for herself within this award-winning community of writers, fully supported by her second Ganache mystery, Dead Cold.

* John MacLachlan Gray, White Stone Day, is a provocative portrayal of Victorian perversion from the acclaimed creator of Billy Bishop Goes to War.

* Barbara Fradkin, Honour Among Men, is an Inspector Green novel that is close to the line that separates fiction from the truth.

... and here are a few others from among that long list I mentioned: When Hell Freezes Over by Rick Blechta, Season of Iron by Sylvia Maultash Warsh, Deadly Lessons by David Russell and The Endless Knot by Gail Bowen.

Happy Reading in 2007.