By Ryan Pike
There’s nothing quite like a good mystery novel. Deciphering clues and piecing together the puzzle alongside the detective is one of the more unique thrills in life, if only for the moment of realization when the clues fall into place and the culprit is apprehended. While a good book, local author Garry Ryan’s The Lucky Elephant Restaurant is not quite a good mystery.
The second book in Ryan’s Detective Lane series, The Lucky Elephant Restaurant is saddled with an unnecessarily wordy title–the titular restaurant is a set-piece for only a handful of scenes–and the chore of catching up newcomers to the series with the events of the first book, Queen’s Park. Ryan manages to do the latter with ease, seamlessly working the recap into the latest caper served up to Detective Lane and his partner Harper.
In fact, the interplay between the detectives and the psychological effects of their previous cases stand out amongst the stronger elements of the novel. Ryan crafts John Lane into a likable protagonist and makes him stand out from the genre’s pack of analogous gumshoes by making him gay. The choice is not a cop-out, as the effects it has on his personal and professional lives are explored.
Unfortunately, the mystery element falls flat. The daughter of a local radio celebrity has been kidnapped and there are two obvious suspects, one of whom gets eliminated from the fray quite quickly, leaving the “Whodunnit?” portion of the plot a foregone conclusion. Luckily, Ryan manages to shift the book’s focus to “How are they going to catch them?” bringing forth an entertaining tale of police procedure as the case gets increasingly complicated for our two detectives.
While The Lucky Elephant Restaurant is a book by a Canadian author set in a Canadian city, it avoids the typical pitfalls of Canadian literature. Ryan makes the story at hand the priority and never shoehorns the book into any city. The book could take place anywhere, the only indicators of its Calgary setting are the street names. Despite not being a particularly mysterious mystery novel, The Lucky Elephant Restaurant proves Canadian literature doesn’t have to be bad.