LAURENCE GOUGH – Serious Crimes.

Viking Press, US/Canada; hardcover, 1990. Paperback reprint: Penguin, Canada, 1991. British editions: Gollancz, hc, 1990; pb, 1992 (shown).

   As far as police procedurals go, if they’re published in Canada by a Canadian author, not to mention ones that take place in Vancouver, BC, they might as well have never been written at all, as far as American readers are concerned. Generally speaking, of course.


   Which is not to say that none of Laurence Gough’s thirteen books in his “Willows and Parker” series have not been published in the US, but most of them haven’t, or if they have, it was barely.

   Take the test for yourself (assuming you live in the US). Take a look at the thirteen books below, for some of which the covers have been provided, and see how many of them you recognize. An easier test: Raise your right hand if you’ve heard of Laurence Gough. I hope you have, but I have a feeling that he’s all but unknown in this country.

   There is a little bit of soap opera going on along with the cases that Jack Willows and his partner Claire Parker are assigned to. Just how much, I couldn’t tell you, as this is the first one of them I’ve happened to read. But in the opening few chapters of Serious Crimes, Willows’ wife has left him, along with their two kids, and he’s getting ready to sell his house.

   There is something going on, I think, between him and Parker, but if it is, it’s awfully subtle and/or it simply doesn’t come up this time. A little investigation on my part has revealed, however, that things heat up in the books that follow. Parker, by the way, is all but completely invisible in this book. She’s always around whenever Willows is; other cops look at her when she’s with Willows with ogling eyes, and that’s about it. Tune in for more next time, or so it appears.

   Dead is a local Chinese businessman, found frozen in a pond covered with several layers of ice. A botched kidnaping? It looks like it. Interspersed with the two cops’ investigation are the adventures of two young hoodlums, one of whom falls in lust with one of his victims, a bored housewife who seems (unknown to him) to have similar feelings about her attacker.

   There’s not much in the way of detection involved, which is par for the course as far as work of most homicide cops is concerned. But the tale the author weaves is as gripping as it is understated, as paradoxical as that may sound. The case (or cases) are never boring, and more, at least one of them ends in a blazing hell-raiser of a finale.

      The Willows and Parker series —

    1. The Goldfish Bowl (1987)


    2. Death on a No. 8 Hook (1988)
    3. Hot Shots (1989)
    4. Serious Crimes (1990)
    5. Accidental Deaths (1991)


    6. Fall Down Easy (1992)
    7. Killers (1993)
    8. Heartbreaker (1995)


    9. Memory Lane (1996)
   10. Karaoke Rap (1997)


   11. Shutterbug (1998)
   12. Funny Money (2000)
   13. Cloud of Suspects (2003)