A Violent End by Maggie Wheeler. General Store Publishing House, 2001.
After Farran Mackenzie’s mother dies in a house fire, Farran is haunted by questions about her mother’s mysterious past and her father’s identity. Taking a sabbatical from her position as a university history professor, Farran travels to her mother’s childhood home to find answers. She ends up uncovering more than she bargained for when murder follows in the footsteps of her inquiries.
The narrative alternates between Farran’s present-day visit to the Lost Villages region and events that took place 40 years earlier when the residents of Aultsville and the other villages disrupted by the St. Lawrence Seaway project prepared for the flooding of their homes. Although based on an interesting premise, the mystery that weaves the story together is a bit transparent. The strength of the book lies with its historical aspects. Wheeler does a nice job of bring to life the events of the era immediately preceding the flooding of the St. Lawrence communities and puts a human face on the impact of the project on their lives.
In the story, Farren rents a cottage on Ault Island for the duration of her visit. After reading the book, I visited Ault Island, a little community comprised of one long road running the length of the small, land-linked island, lined with a mix of cottages, modest homes, and newer, upscale houses. It’s a lovely spot, well-treed, with a peaceful, private feel. Along the road, I encountered this deer, who didn’t seem at all alarmed by my presence.
As the St. Lawrence Seaway is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2009, this is perhaps a particularly appropriate time to look back on its early days. An engaging look at the changes the Seaway project brought is provided in DVD form by A River Lost, which makes a good followup to A Violent End. I found the story as told by Wheeler and the details presented in the video mesh well.