Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul

Highly charged and profoundly important, Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul is a new masterpiece from one of Canada’s greatest writers.
 
On a bright morning in June 1985, a young Micmac man starts his first day of work—but by noon he is dead, killed mysteriously in the fourth hold of the cargo ship Lutheran. Hector Penniac had been planning to go to university, perhaps to study medicine. Roger Savage, a loner who has had to make his own way since his youth, comes under suspicion of killing Hector over a union card and a morning’s work. Even if he can’t quite put it into words, Roger immediately sees the ways in which Hector’s death will be viewed as symbolic, as more than an isolated tragedy—and that he is caught in a chain of events that will become more explosive with each passing day.
 
The aging chief of Hector’s band, Amos Paul, tries to reduce the tensions raised by the investigation into Hector’s death and its connection to a host of other simmering issues, from territorial lines to fishing rights. His approach leads him into conflict with Isaac Snow, a younger and more dynamic man whom many in the band would prefer to lead them—especially when the case attracts press attention in the form of an ambitious journalist named Max Doran, the first of many outsiders to bring his own agenda and motives onto the Micmac reserve. Joel Ginnish, Isaac’s volatile and sometimes violent friend, decides to bring justice to Roger Savage when the authorities refuse to, blockading the reserve in order to do so. And though perhaps no one really means for it to happen, soon a single incident grows ineluctably into a crisis that engulfs a whole society, a whole province and in some ways a whole country.
 
Twenty years later, RCMP officer Markus Paul—Chief Amos Paul’s grandson, who was fifteen years old when Hector was killed—tries to piece together the clues surrounding Hector Penniac’s death. The decades have passed, and much about the case has been twisted beyond recognition by the many ways that different people have sought to exploit it. But, haunted by the past, Markus still struggles towards a truth that will snap “those chains that had once seemed impossible to break.” (290)
 
This is a novel that begins with an instant from today’s headlines, and digs down into the marrow to explore the oldest themes we know: murder and betrayal, race and history, the brutal and chaotic forces that guide the groups we are drawn into. Nothing is one-sided in David Adams Richards’ world—even the most scheming characters have moments of grace, while the most benevolent are shown to have selfish motives, or the need to show off their goodness. All are depicted with an almost Biblical gravity, framed by an understated genius of storytelling that makes this novel at once both an utterly gripping mystery, and a vitally important document of Canada’s broken past and divided present.

Reviews

LONGLISTED - 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul… .finds David Adams Richards at the top of his game… . [the novel] unfolds with the weight and significance of an Old Testament story, anchored by a narrative voice that is at once prophetic and detached, rooted in a strongly oral storytelling tradition… . It is not a subtle approach; it’s a deceptively complicated one, and tremendously effective.  The novel sparks with an immediacy and power that is rare to find in contemporary fiction: these are old questions and timeless concerns given face and voice by one of Canada’s finest writers.”
—Robert J. Wiersema, Victoria Times-Colonist

“David Adams Richards’ 14th novel brilliantly scours the conscience of a community… . [He] moves deftly between the multiple voices and points of view … [and] never fails to capture the right details to a scene… . That Richards can consistently bring such potentially mawkish figures to vivid life is just one reason to keep reading him.”
Quill & Quire (starred review)
 
“In a stark, stunning and profound new novel, New Brunswick’s David Adams Richards (Mercy Among the Children, Nights Below Station Street) exposes Canada’s rawest nerve… . the construction of this novel is brilliantly conceived, and flawlessly executed. This is Richards at the height of his powers, which is very high indeed. The word masterpiece is not too strong.”
National Post (Donna Bailey Nurse)
 
“In his masterful new novel, David Adams Richards shows why it matters who explains the complicated relationships between whites and Natives in his beloved Miramichi… . Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul is remarkable for a tightly woven, multi-layered plot and the minute detailing of a way of life that is disappearing in New Brunswick.”
National Post (John Racovali)
 
“[Incidents in the Life of] Markus Paul is a solid offering with timely insight from one of Canada’s most acclaimed storytellers.”
Winnipeg Free Press
 
“… the searing emotion and stirring probity we have come to expect of an author fighting to stave off anachronism’s claim to right and wrong, good and evil… . the characters themselves, who could have been frozen into moral archetypes … attain a welcome level of complexity… . Richards’s larger picture includes a moral lesson at once topical and timeless.”
The Globe and Mail
 
“Delving into race, politics, corruption, police work, media and the power of public opinion, the novel is a superb rendering of our propensity to confuse charisma with wisdom and judgment with justice.”
London Free Press

“David Adams Richards’ latest thrills with small-town suspense and mystery… . Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul is a page-turning thriller delivered by Richards in his finest form yet. The who, why and hows surrounding Hector’s death, and the deaths that follow, pile up like pulp logs that drop on the reader’s head in a series of stunning surprises.”
Telegraph-Journal