Lion’s Head Revisited by Lambda award-winning author Jeffrey Round is an absorbing mystery fiction novel that once I picked it up I found hard to put down. The storyline is simple enough being based on the kidnapping of a young boy, but what makes this story unique is that the boy is severely autistic and so his ability to communicate and relay events to those around him is virtually non-existent. The story centres around Dan, a private investigator who is hired by the family to locate the small boy. By all measures, Dan is a man’s man and is also in a relationship with Nick, another man’s man who happens to be a police officer and tangentially working on the same case.
Lion’s Head Revisited is the sixth instalment in a series of mystery novels that Round recommends be read in order. Despite this, I started with Lion’s Head Revisited, and like the other instalments, it can easily stand on its own so reading them out of order does not create any information gaps in reading.
It opens in Georgian Bay with an unknown hiker lost in the woods and desperate to find her four-year-old autistic son, Jeremy Bentham, who has gone missing during their camping trip at Lion’s Head located on the edge of the Bruce Peninsula, a real-life location in Ontario. This is a harrowing setting for the novel as Bruce Peninsula is a land mass located on the Southern part of Ontario in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation extending North from Owen Sound, into the Great Lakes, separating Lake Huron from the blue waters of Georgian Bay. Marked by a rugged interior, the Bruce Peninsula is rife with massive cliffs which are amidst a bounty of ferns, orchids, foxes and black bears. Breathtaking by day, treacherous after sundown.
The opening line “She knew she was going to die” sets the tone for what becomes a gripping ride with twist after twist. As the investigation begins, Dan’s search uncovers many possible suspects ranging from a struggling meth addict to an uptight investment banker. With each new suspect, we are taken in and around Toronto as Dan pokes and probes at each suspect looking for clues.
The familiar Toronto landmarks make the mystery all the more compelling and real. Time is of the essence with child abductions and so as each hour passes, the tension builds. During the initial questioning of Dennis, the investment banker at his office in the TD Tower, a window washer hangs precariously outside of the window increasing the tension between the two. Lion’s Head Revisited takes the reader from the outskirts of town to cottage country, and into the depths of remote caves in the Bruce Peninsula.
Jeffrey Round holding Lion’s Head Revisited, photo by Andy Carroll
Lion’s Head Revisited is highly addictive, from the title of each chapter to the cliff-hangers at each chapters’ end. It kept me reading even when I should have been working. The abducted child being autistic and unable to effectively communicate adds a level of complexity to the mystery and just when I think I’ve solved the crime, another twist.