In the late winter of 2003, two wealthy old  friends are murdered in Vancouver on the same day, one with a squash racquet and one with a cricket bat. 

       The motive for the double murder has revenge written all over it.  When the investigation shifts to Saskatoon, Bill Shmata must sift the past of these two men for clues to the double murder.

       His quest for answers takes him to Julie Belanger, a gutsy and ever-vigillant Metis woman who works in a seniors home; Bertha Eeling, a local historian with an obsessive grasp of the past; and Willie Grussen, an old German limousine driver with secrets of his own.  These three become the investigator's main windows into the past, the summer of 1951, when both murder victims were bellmen at the Hochelaga, a ritzy hotel in the Banff Rockies.  Shmata uncovers a trail of crooked poker games, robbery, murder. and the rumour of a large cache of valuable coins.

      One of the suspects is Earl Claney, a retired cabinetmaker stricken with cancer, old and worn-out before his time.  The other is his brother Joseph, who's been dead for more than half a century.  Or is he?  Or could it be someone who remembers the summer of '51 as bitterly as Earl Claney?  Solving the mystery for Shmata will require some luck.  The more he uncovers the stories from the summer of 1951, the more he learns about class warfare and class resentment in Canada.

       This novel is a train ride into the past, a meditation on luck, a poker game run amok, a love story, a treasure hunt, and a first rate mystery.

Released in October, 2005 from Great Plains Publications in Winnipeg.

Luck, by David Carpenter










Critical Response


Luck, a second novel by Dave Carpenter, is a cleverly plotted mystery featuring a numismatist named Bill Shmata and hinging on a very valuable silver half-dollar coin. We begin in Vancouver, when a very rich old man is murdered on his way to play squash. Bishop Montgomery and his best friend, Lamont Spencer, meet regularly. They have been friends all their wealthy and pampered lives. But en route to the squash club, Bishop is waylaid by a man who smashes him in the head and tells him Lamont is already dead. The killer smashes Bishop several more times and leaves him for dead. But Bishop has just enough time left to take out his little notepad and write one word: "Therapist." That's the only clue and no one understands it. The dead men are connected to a long-ago heist. A man named Joe Claney stole a golf bag full of silver coins. His accomplice killed him and he and the coins went into the river. The body was never found, but the accomplice was convicted of murder and is now dead, so who could want to kill two respectable, rich old men decades later?

Carpenter has a nice plot and the numismatic link is well done. Despite the many slashes at the Canadian class system ... Luck is fun.

-Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail.


Carpenter's complex mystery ranges from Montreal to Vancouver, Banff to Saskatoon, with a lot of flashbacks. We are taken behind the scenes among the summer employees at a big Banff hotel in the early 1950's. We get a peek into west-side Saskatoon of the same era, and even look into the prospects for the aged of today. The breadth of plots and ideas [is] vintage Carpenter. Shmata is an endearing character, and his match-up with librarian Bertha Eeling, who has been hired to help preserve Saskatoon Police records for "future investigations, inquiries and posterity" is a good one. Together they put a lot of hard work and thought into exploring and understanding the long-ago murder as a key to the more recent ones.... A wealth of interesting characters populates this book, beyond Shmata and Eeling. There's Letourneau, the crabby cop who can't get Shmata his job back (there's a beautiful moment when he discovers the virtue of computers). There's Earl Claney, who holds the key to the mystery of why his black sheep brother Joe was thrown off the bridge, and Julie Belanger, the personal care home worker who befriends him-- perhaps because of all the time they share smoking on the patio. Her son Sammy has a small but pivotal role, and there is nice interplay between Claney and the boy. They are all real people, moreso than Bishop Montgomery and Lamont Spencer, whose upper-class arrogance lies at the heart of Luck, and who were anything but lucky for anyone else. We will be seeing more of Bill Shmata and, I hope, Bertha Eeling, and maybe some of the rest of this rich cast...

Carpenter has got his feet thoroughly and happily wet in mysteries.

-Jenni Morton, The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix.



Luck is David Carpenter's first mystery, his sixth novel or novella, by my count, and his 11th published book. In other words, he knows how to write, and his foray into the mystery genre is more accomplished than many a first effort. Don't expect [his investigator] Bill Shmata to bear any resemblance to Robert Parker's Spenser, let alone Hawk or any others of the hardboiled school of mystery writing. He is a small q, for quiet, Canadian. He's low key, older, retired from the Saskatoon Police Service but still called in to help out in certain cases...

This is a tight little mystery with few twists but many layers. You may sense the shape of the ending but you'll want to follow Mr. Shmata to the last page.

-Jeff George, Victoria Times-Colonist



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