MYSTERY AND CRIME
March 25, 2017; ISBN: 978-1-988130-37-8; trade paper 5” x 8”;
372 pages; $18.95.
Riley becomes entangled in the wreckage left behind by a con man called Brandt who ran a Ponzi scheme on the West Island of Montreal. When the fifty-million-dollar scheme falls apart and dozens of people are left destitute, some of them are sure that Brandt’s wife Terry knows where he’s hiding out. Riley’s not convinced, but then Terry’s the woman Riley was living with when he left Montreal twenty years before.
Michael Blair’s first novel (If Looks Could Kill, M&S, 2001) was shortlisted for the 1999 Chapters/Robertson Davies Prize and the 2001 Quebec Writers’ Federation First Book Prize. Since then he has published five more novels, most recently True Believers (LLP, 2015). He lives in Montreal, where he works as a freelance technical writer and editor.
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT MICHAEL BLAIR’S LAST NOVEL, TRUE BELIEVERS:
“Gullibility kills.” The epigram, from Carl Sagan, opens this superb novel by Montreal author Michael Blair. This is his sixth book but it’s far and away his best, with a plot so outrageous and original that I had to read it twice just to pick up things I missed.
Hack Loomis is a PI in Burlington, Vt. There’s not much for a professional peeper to do in Burlington, so Hack agrees to check into the possible disappearance of his assistant’s friend, Belle Ryerson. It appears that Belle’s last known location was a meeting of UFO enthusiasts run by a psychiatrist and a very attractive woman who claims to be in touch with a space-alien mothership. No one is wearing tinfoil helmets, but they’re close. Naturally, one theory of Belle’s sudden exit is a trip to a galaxy far, far away. Hack is not deterred by ideas spun from old alien movies. He figures Belle is right on planet Earth and someone with human DNA knows where, so the search is on.
The path is funny, smart and full of great dialogue and clever characters. Gullibility kills, all right, but it also makes for a terrific plotline for a possible murder.
—Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail, June 9, 2015
Author Michael Blair weaves a tale of duplicity that would do a professional con artist proud. The reader warms to Hack Loomis immediately. He is both everyman and the underdog, surrounded by adversaries, but never conceding defeat. If I have a reservation about Loomis, it is his personal hygiene: bathing only twice a week doesn’t endear him to readers. On the other hand, Loomis’s relationship with sidekick Connie Noble is nicely nuanced, as she is clearly taken by him but realistic about their chances of making their business relationship succeed. The other characters are well drawn, and the dialogue is spot on, tailored to each individual, whether it be the arrogant head of the law firm where Belle Ryerson worked or her trusting but naïve sister Hazel.
Deftly tapping into the commonly held belief that intelligent life must exist on other planets, Blair fashions a convincing tale of gullibility and greed, leavening his story with his trademark sly humour. The result is True Believers, an entertaining excursion into the realm of those who desperately latch on to what they want to believe.
—Jim Napier, Montreal Review of Books, Spring 2015
“Charles Pearson Brandt, aka Chaz, was an independent financial advisor who ran a Ponzi scheme in Hudson and the West Island for fifteen years or so. About three years ago, though, he disappeared with his assistant-cum-accomplice-cum-girlfriend and fifty million or more of his clients’ money, although he’d probably scammed half again that amount. Small potatoes, I suppose, compared to the hundreds of millions Bernie Madoff stole, but a whack of money none the less.”
“You’re right about that,” I said, wondering where she was headed.
“Brandt’s victims were mostly elderly: widows, widowers and retirees, referred to him by his other clients, who believed he was making them a shitload of money. I guess they’d never heard, or had forgotten, that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The earnings statements he sent out were pure fiction. As if that wasn’t bad enough, toward the end he’d also started forging his clients’ signatures on mortgage and loan applications he had no intention of making payments on. He’s a sociopath, obviously, without a shred of empathy or compassion. He left nearly a hundred elderly people, people who trusted him, completely destitute.”
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