Doubleday Canada, 262 pages, $27
It must be frustrating to be a well-regarded author whose works become eclipsed by the writings of a pseudonym. Inger Ash Wolfe, Michael Redhill’s pseudonym, found an American audience. Michael Redhill has not. Both authors are better known in Canada, home to both Redhill and his nom de plume. And that may be a problem — an identity crisis — that has driven Redhill to write “Bellevue Square,” apparently the first in a “triptych of novels called Modern Ghosts.” Redhill seems to be haunted by his own creation.
Redhill essentially disables his alter ego in this book. If this presages no more books by Wolfe, I will mourn her death. I am enamored of Wolfe’s quirky, entertaining, often gruesome crime books. By winning the lucrative Canadian Scotiabank Giller Prize for “Bellevue Square,” has Redhill received establishment permission to permanently partition off a part of himself, to professionally murder Inger Ash Wolfe?
Jean Mason, the main character in “Bellevue Square,” begins life as a normal, somewhat boring bookstore owner in Toronto with an ex-police officer husband and two young sons — formerly of the same town as Inger Ash Wolfe’s protagonist Hazel Micallef. In increasingly bizarre and anxious revelations, Jean becomes aware of a doppleganger afoot in Toronto, the elusive Ingrid Fox. Who is she becomes what is she. Well, she apparently is the first “modern ghost” of Redhill’s intended future opus.
There are seizures, hospital stays, an ineffective therapist, and baby Aspirin — medical red herrings to explain Jean and her twin, perhaps? Or does Redhill go down a bumpy horror or science-fiction road? I guess we’ll have to wait for the rest of the “triptych” to reveal the underlying theme.
My sense that doom hangs large over Inger Ash Wolfe leads me to give a puzzled thumbs down to a book that as far as I know hasn’t even been officially released in the U.S.