1381 A terminal drive on Interstate 5

Elderville
by Roy Innes

Pensacola, Florida: World Castle Publishing, 2022
$9.99 U.S. / 9781956788303

Reviewed by Phyllis Reeve

*

Roy Innes used to be an eye surgeon. After 30 plus years of Big City private and academic practice, he retired to Gabriola Island from Vancouver and became a writer of thrillers. From 2005 to 2016 he enlivened our lives with four highly entertaining novels featuring Inspector Coswell of the RCMP, all set in British Columbia and the “Pacific Northwest.” There have been short stories for anthologies, even a poem or two, but it has been a while since we had a new novel from him.

Even now, he claims this one is different from his previous police procedurals, not a novel but a novella and, he says, a “lighter read.” Well, maybe. It is a “quick read” because you can’t stop turning one page after another. And there are moments of panic, when the only way forward seems to be through a twilight zone.

David and Kathy, en route from an Eye Surgeons Conference in San Francisco to their home near Portland, are lured off Highway I-5, off GPS, off Google, off the printed map to a sign indicating a possibly non-existent place called Elderville.

I know — the name sounds like everyone’s Gulf Island community — at least as we were here on Gabriola a few years ago, before an influx of enterprising young families began to liven us up. But never in our wildest most xenophobic dreams did our community approach this Dystopia. Or is it Utopia? The townspeople seem to think the latter.

Roy Innes of Gabriola Island

David is involved in an improbable traffic accident, charged with vehicular homicide and jailed. Phones don’t work, roads go nowhere, everyone is old or at least very late middle age, and everyone is part of a conspiracy. Before long, David and Kathy are receiving offers they may not be able to refuse, or may not even want to refuse.

Kathy is nominally free, or at least not in jail. It is up to her to unravel the plot and find their way out. We follow her point of view, nicely handled despite the author’s own gender. Roy Innes is a gifted storyteller, knows how to make our flesh creep, and invites us to think about free will, age and community, while careening through a heart-stopping car chase.

Better not be heart-stopping. In Elderville, if your heart stops you don’t get revived.

If they escape (and do they escape?), will anyone believe their story? And if not, will that sinister blank spot of the map remain, somewhere off Highway I-5 not far from Portland, prepared to lure the next travellers who fit the community’s needs?

Beware. Don’t try to save time by choosing Highway I-5 instead of the Coastal Route.

Get home quickly and settle in for a good read.

But first, take a moment to enjoy the cover picture of a 1950s era Esso (NOT Exxon) gas station. This was the author’s idea, and he is proud of it. He has caught you in his time warp before you even open the book.

Note: a version of this review appears in the Gabriola Arts Council online Newsletter.

*

Phyllis Parham Reeve

Phyllis Parham Reeve writes about local and personal history in her three solo books and in contributions to journals and multi-author publications. She is a contributing editor of the Dorchester Review and her writing appears occasionally in Amphora, the journal of the Alcuin Society. She co-founded the bookstore at Page’s Resort & Marina on Gabriola Island. More details than necessary may be found on her websiteEditor’s note: Phyllis Reeve has recently reviewed books by Veronica Strong-Boag, Ian HanomansingPJ PattenMarion McKinnon Crook, Daphne MarlattAyesha ChaudhrySylvia Olsen, and P.K. Page.

*

The British Columbia Review

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line journal service for in-depth coverage of BC books and writers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.

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