Review by Peter McKenzie-Brown
I don’t often read mystery novels, and I believe that Canada is a country governed by law and decent people without interference from foreign governments. However, this book has somewhat shaken those convictions, at least in part.
I was intrigued when I heard about a writer from Vancouver who had written a mystery about corruption and collusion between China and a variety of possible villains. I decided to buy a copy, fully prepared to house it in my unread bookshelves if it wasn’t up to snuff. Amazon duly shipped me the book, which is also available on Kindle, and I tore open the box. I was not prepared for what I got.
Beautifully designed and printed, the book’s cover shows two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fitting together. One piece is the bulk of the Canadian flag, and it slips into a piece which is mostly the flag of China. I was intrigued, so I put away the other book I was working on and began to browse.
Of Two Minds is a fairly bulky volume –about 400 pages in length, though broken into 38 chapters. Put another way, the chapters are short enough that you should be easily able to finish a chapter before turning off your bedside reading light. I didn’t take 38 nights to read it, though. This book is a page-turner.
The story is a complex one. The book features a Vancouver-based detective named Andrew Wachter, who is not exactly the doppelgänger of Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s legendary Belgian detective. With a father from old English money and a mother of Chinese origin, the Vancouver detective in Rynd’s book has a foot in both camps.
I’m obviously not going to give away the plot, except to say that a spark ignites a bitter struggle between these communities. Wachter wants everyone to trust him, but matters get out of hand. The government of China enters the fray, and criminal gangs associated with China’s ancient triads – these groups control, for example, 90% of Vancouver’s heroin trade – up the ante.
The conflict spreads. The hunt for one killer leads Wachter to a woman with a split personality, a missing Chinese child, and an intricate dance between Canadian intelligence and the Communist Party of China. People start dying, and billions of dollars are at stake. Who will end up the winner: China, the murderer, Canada, criminal triads, or someone else whose face the reader can’t quite see? As I said, the secret stays with me, until you read the book or find someone else who’s willing to blab.
On the book’s cover is a brief bio of its polyglot author. Now living in Vancouver, Rynd has a doctorate in literature and a law degree, which he practiced for 25 years. He’s conversant in both French and German, and is apparently able to read Chinese hànzì characters.
He’s also a terrific English-language writer.