A Review By Sandra Ruttan

In the middle of the day on a busy street in Toronto, a guy gets shot in the head.

That’s where Dirty Sweet begins.

From there to where it ends, it’s a story full of twists and turns, a thriller that follows everyone connected to the crime that opens the book, and although you can see some things coming, there were a number of twists along the way that kept me wondering how things would pan out, right to the end.

Dirty Sweet follows a large cast of characters, but author John McFetridge weaves the story together well. One thing I had a sense of reading it was who each character was, what they were about. That said, the book wasn’t predictable. Because Dirty Sweet followed the cops as well as those in organized crime and wannabe criminals, I had the sense at the end that McFetridge had circled around the crime from all sides. You saw the relatively innocent lives affected by what happened in the story, you saw the people taking any opportunity to get ahead, no matter who got hurt, and you saw the people who’d been in crime so long, it was just business.

I found it refreshing to read a book that made Toronto the not-so-good a real character in the story. In fact, despite the few points in the story where characters reflect on Montreal or Calgary, Toronto is the cohesive thread. As a Muskokan who never cared much for Toronto when I lived in Ontario, Dirty Sweet made me almost nostalgic for a trip east.

If I had one complaint about the book, it would be that I didn’t see enough of Loewen, but I feel that’s actually a compliment to the author for creating a rich, divergent cast of characters and whetting my appetite for more.

The writing is lean, the story moves quickly and McFetridge is already one hell of a storyteller, and he’s a Canadian author to watch for. I feel Dirty Sweet marks a turning point for me, in my journey to discover gritty Canadian-based crime fiction novels, and I hope that there are many more authors like McFetridge to come, ones that portray the nice and not-so-nice aspects of our country while talking about the real crimes happening here.

I’m actually glad we had a delay with this issue so I could include my thoughts on this solid debut.


Sandra Ruttan has just signed a deal for the release of her first novel, Suspicious Circumstances, in early 2007. A regular contributor to Spinetingler Magazine, her work can also be found in the July/August issue of Crimespree Magazine. For more information about Sandra visit her website or her blog.

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Murder, Eh?
Scare the Light Away

Burdan of Memory