Author Tags: Cariboo, Fiction, Physician Author
Roy Innes of Gabriola Island grew up in Victoria, attended University of Victoria and gained his training as a medical doctor at the University of British Columbia. As a retired eye physician and surgeon, he enrolled in the Humber School for Writers program and, under the mentorship of Olive Senior, wrote his first mystery novel.
In Murder in the Monashees (NeWest Press, 2005 $10.95) we first meet RCMP Corporal Paul Blakemore in the Monashee Mountain village of Bear Creek. The discovery of a frozen corpse in a snowbank, with no signs of foul play, has international ramifications that merit the intrusion of Vancouver Homicide Inspector Mark Coswell into Blakemore’s investigations. Add a smalltown coroner, a feisty female reporter, plus some madness and mistakes, and you’ve got a police procedural with some medical know-how behind it.
“When my first crime novel was finished,” says Roy Innes, “it never entered my head to do a sequel.” Among the spate of new murder mysteries emanating from the West Coast, Innes’ second thriller, West End Murders (NeWest $12.95), transports his lead characters from Bear Creek to Vancouver where they investigate a series of hate-crime murders. Inspector Coswell and Corporal Blakemore uncover an underground organization and a conspiracy against an American politician. Although social issues arise—gay rights, justice system and right-wing fanaticism—Innes says he writes solely to entertain, not to preach.
After two successful murder mysteries, Innes was shortlisted for the highly competitive John Galbraith Literary Award.
The third Inspector Coswell mystery is set in the Chilcotin. SEE REVIEW BELOW
The fourth Inspector Coswell mystery is largely set at UBC. SEE REVIEW BELOW
Around 2010, Innes noted the climate for fiction in Canada was becoming more problematic. “I think all small presses are in a real bind with the devastating cuts to their funding,” he said. “We appear to be headed into a second dark ages. It may be that The History of Hockey by Stephen Harper will be as literary as this country gets.”
Married to his wife Barrie, Innes is an avid hunter and a lover of classical music.
Photo by Laura Sawchuk
Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Murder in the Monashees: A Mystery
Murder in the Chilcotin
West End Murders
Murder in the Monashees (NeWest Press, 2005) $10.95 1-896300-89-8
West End Murders (NeWest, 2008) $12.95 978-1-897126-27-1
Murder in the Chilcotin (NeWest, 2010).
The Extra Cadaver Murder (NeWest 2016). $15.95 978-1-926455-72-3
[BCBW 2016] "Fiction"
Murder in the Chilcotin by Roy Innes (NeWest $19.95)
Roy innes’ third inspector Coswell mystery, Murder in the Chilcotin, investigates the murder of a young Mountie, the son of a local rancher in the West Cariboo. Its genesis was multi-faceted.
“For years now,” says Innes, a Gabriola Islander, “I’ve been part of a senior citizen foursome of moose hunters camping out in the Chilcotin back country and since I wanted a sharp contrast to the urban setting of West End Murders, this magnificent, wild part of our province was ideal.
“It was after reading Rich Hobson’s Grass Beyond the Mountains and seeing the actual homesteads described in the book, that the plot developed in my mind. I was already fascinated with RCMP and First Nations’ history. So it all came together.”
Entering a racially charged world of cattle, logging and marijuana crops, Inspector Coswell and newly promoted Sergeant Blakemore soon learn about the so-called Chilcotin War of 1864 that resulted in the hanging of Five Tsilhqot’in aboriginals.
in the early 1860s, alfred Waddington launched a bold plan to build a faster route to the Cariboo goldfields, via Bute Inlet, south of Knight Inlet. In 1861, Waddington sent his surveyor Robert Homfray to Bute Inlet to examine the feasibility of a “gold road” or toll road from the mouth of the Klinaklini River, into the Homathko River Valley, and then onto Barkerville.
Aboriginals were forewarned they would die of smallpox if they interfered. In response, eight members of the Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) First Nation attacked one of Waddington’s work camps in the Homathko Canyon in 1864 and killed 14 members of the survey expedition. The overall death toll rose to nineteen white men and four aboriginals by year’s end.
Five Tsilhqot’in aboriginals (Klatassin, Tellot, Tapitt, Piem and Chessus) were sentenced to death by Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie in a Quesnel court and hanged at Quesnellesmouth. A sixth man was later hanged in New Westminster.
“Since the Chilcotin uprising is relatively recent in a historical sense, it is well documented in provincial and federal archives,” says Innes. “A simple way of reviewing these is through an excellent educational site: canadianmysteries.ca. The background for my plot virtually flowed from those pages.”
The Chilcotin War, as it became known, remained a divisive racial issue in British Columbia for more than a century. Eventually the NDP government of British Columbia formally apologized for the territorial infringements of Waddington’s men, as well as the procedural shortcomings of the trial and hangings.
Waddington was still lobbying for his Bute Inlet route to the Cariboo when he died at age 71—fittingly, of smallpox-- in Ottawa in 1872.
As a break from his novels, innes also writes short stories and one, Sheila Pritchard, was shortlisted for the John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award 2009.
The Extra Cadaver Murder
Extra—read all about it
by James Paley
Roy Innes’ The Extra Cadaver Murder (NeWest $15.95) has an opening that is hard to beat. A first-year medical school class gathers in the old anatomy lab at UBC. Many have never even seen a dead body before—let alone cut into one.
Soaked in formaldehyde and wrapped in burlap, these cadavers are real. But wait a second. The med students literally uncover a problem. Why is there an extra corpse?
At the outset of Roy Innes’ fourth Inspector Coswell novel, we learn the uninvited, very dead, very naked, extra guest is Dr. Patrick Kelly, head of UBC’s department of surgery. Given that he’s both a cruel perfectionist and a drunken, gambling troublemaker, his murder is not as surprising as it should be.
Six suspects ultimately emerge, each investigated with Coswell's characteristic intensity. His ex-wife could well have done him in for his philandering. Or maybe it was Dr. Struthers, next in line for his job.
Coswell, the great detective, is slipping. On occasion, he’s actually forgetting a suspect's name. Whenever Corporal Bostock or Corporal James catch something he has missed, there’s a double sting to his pride. He is only 58 years old but he worries about early Alzheimer's disease. It doesn’t help that he can’t keep abreast of technology, even ignoring the convenience of the average smartphone.
His formerly keen mind is further befuddled when he becomes besotted by the victim's ex-wife, also a professor in the medical school and a stunningly beautiful woman.
Readers of Innes’ first three mysteries had urged him to generate a plot utilizing his medical background. Recalling his own medical training at UBC, he had a great beginning but stuck after that opening scene.
“Then I got an unexpected email on my website,” he says. “That person’s name instantly registered. It brought back a clear memory.” Forty years ago a dark-eyed, serious little girl calmly climbed into his examining chair. “Presto! That was the key. The plot virtually flowed from there.”
Introduction of a female cohort for Inspector Coswell this time enabled Innes to integrate sexual harassment within the RCMP after Coswell’s usual sidekick, Corporal James, has been shuffled sideways for a stint in the coroner’s office.
Corporal James, who is gay, remains in the picture assisting in the investigation and also serving as a confidante to Bostock. The duo helping Coswell empathize with one another over the prejudices faced in their professional lives.
Bostock proves to be an exemplary officer at every turn, performing above and beyond Coswell’s expectations of her. Gradually he is won over after his initial dismay when she was assigned to him.
The investigation veers off campus to locales around Vancouver. Eventually an undercover visit to an Irish pub leads the team to Larry, a gang member, whose boss, Conor Donohan, is named by an escort as Kelly’s gambling connection.
The three detectives also explore Roy Innes’ old stomping grounds such as the student residence, the Pit Pub and UBC Endowment Lands trails, as well as the Vancouver General Hospital complex where Innes did residencies in Internal Medicine and then Eye Surgery.
The Extra Cadaver Murder is a multi-faceted novel, with complex characters and realistic details, doubling as a sympathetic portrayal of the difficulties faced by women officers in the RCMP.