CanLit Recommendation: Punishment

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

If nothing else was achieved with my reading this year, 2014 will definitely be remembered as the year that I took steps towards curbing my dislike of CanLit. I don’t think that I can empathically say “I dislike CanLit” anymore. There are too many exceptions to list.

Thanks to Lindsey, Naomi and Karen for helping me to see the error of my ways.

All this to say that I finally got around to reading Punishment by Linden MacIntyre. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC but arriving as it did shortly before my wedding, I only just got to it. And, let’s be honest, I had to work through some CanLit prejudices before I could give in to it. I peeked through the opening pages and I was caught by the strength of the writing and completely intrigued by the premise but I didn’t get to this book until the 23rd.

And then I read it straight through until I finished it late on Christmas Eve. When I wasn’t reading it, I was anxious to get back to it. I wrapped presents in a haze of “what will happen to Strickland? What really happened to Maymie?”


Tony Breau, has taken early retirement after decades spent as a prison guard. While he was there he formed a kind of relationship with an inmate, Dwayne Strickland. Both from the same small town, those that are involved with Strickland at different times in his life think that Tony, as an authority figure from the same place, adopted as Dwayne himself was, will have the ability to talk to him, convince him to straighten his life out where others have failed.

But Tony isn’t convinced it will make any difference; his attempts to get through to Dwayne have always been half-hearted.

Now though, Dwayne is being held responsible for the death of a girl, Maymie, at his house. While the town is left reeling from the death of this girl, convinced that Strickland had something to do with it, Tony is trying to move on with his life following his recent divorce. And even though e becomes involved with Maymie’s grandmother again, his first love, he’s keen to stay out of the whole Strickland thing as much as possible.

Everything is further complicated by the return of a Neil Archie MacDonald, a Vietnam war vet (he volunteered to do two tours), just retired from the Boston Police Department. Neil fancies that he and Tony should be allies in this town, that it’s up to them to uphold the values and ideals of the place they both call home.

I read a lot of books that revolve around crime. This book was different for two reasons: it didn’t focus on solving the crime and it was very much about the Canadian justice system. These folks live in the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, knows their business, where they all congregate at the local store and talk about everyone else. Nothing is private. The kind of place where prejudices are evident, where feuds go way back and the pull of vigilante justice is strong. The whole book has an electric undercurrent to it, like things are about to go off. 

While I was reading I thought that this book would actually make a great movie. A lot of times when someone says that it means that the book had blanks in the action or whatever that the reader feels would be better explained on screen. That’s not what I mean at all. I think that this was a very emotional story, building slowly towards a pretty terrific ending and I think a lot of people would enjoy experiencing that on screen.

I actually can’t say enough about this book. Since I finished it on Christmas Eve I’ve been recommending it to everyone I talk to and I guess that now includes you.


12 thoughts on “CanLit Recommendation: Punishment

  1. I remember your dislike of CanLit! Talking of movies, I’ve read books where I’ve thought – this was written with half an eye to the movie adaptation in mind. Which really irritates me.
    This book sounds really good – different in subject matter but also skilfully done in the patience with setting up undercurrents, and the background atmosphere.

  2. Wow! Very high praise! When I read the premise of this book it didn’t appeal to me enough to want to read it. I also haven’t read any of his other books, even though I have two of them (I think), so I also didn’t know what his writing style was like. Sounds like I need to give one of his books a try soon! I’m glad you liked it so much!

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