Review: Bloodline by Stan by Stan Rogal
Insomniac Press Oct. 2011
Young girls hitchhiking along a lonely stretch of highway are turning up dead. Salesman Peter Donaldson travels this same highway and becomes concerned when he hears about the murders. Then one day he stops for someone at the side of the road—a tough, fifteen-year-old girl from an abusive family named Lynda—and gives her a ride. A set of circumstances leads Lynda to become the babysitter to Peter and his wife Dorothy’s children. But then another body turns up. And when a witness identifies his car and license plate as the one who picked up the girl, suspicion falls on Peter. Now he’s being investigated by the police. Thrown into the mix is an unscrupulous bitch of a news anchor with her own troubled past, hell bent on painting Peter in the worst possible light.
Bloodline is a quirky, strangely compelling story by Canadian author Stan Rogal. It’s a story about a marriage in a fishbowl, caught in the midst of a murder investigation. Then there’s the other aspect of the story, that of Lynda, the fifteen-year-old girl, her abusive home life and her desperate struggle for love. In many ways these two characters are reflections of each other as they both cope with their own private pain. But things take a really weird turn for the worst when Peter discovers a cape, a top hat, and a sword-cane in a steamer trunk belonging to a dead relative rumored to be a killer, and begins wearing them.
I suspect the inspiration for this story came from Canada’s “Highway Of Tears”, a stretch of road in northern B.C. where hitchhiking is common, and since the late 60s, has been the local of a number of unsolved murders and disappearances of young women. Although the town in the story isn’t actually named, the author makes reference to mountains in the scenery on the highway where his character Peter travels.
Rogal has an original voice, and the characters are interesting and memorable. I did find the ambiguity of the ending a little unsatisfying. And yet, I thought of the characters long after the ending, speculating on their outcome. I’m guessing this was the author’s intent all along, to get the reader to think. Some people will like this but I’m certain it might serve to annoy others. Based on the behaviours and attitudes of the characters I think I know what the eventual outcome is, but like the author, I’m not telling. That you’ll have to figure out for yourself. Ultimately, as odd as this novel was, I quite liked it.