|Photo (c) Michael J. McCann|
How does a large-scale police bureaucracy deliver effective service in a thinly-populated rural area?
BURN COUNTRY, the second March and Walker crime novel, continues to follow detectives of the Ontario Provincial Police featured in SORROW LAKE as they investigate homicides occurring in rural/small town settings.
Ontario is the most populated province in Canada, and it includes this nation's largest city, Toronto, and fourth largest city, Ottawa--our nation's capital. This province is also the fourth largest in terms of area in square kilometres. While the larger municipalities in Ontario have their own police service, of course, the OPP's jurisdiction outside these metropolitan areas covers over one million square kilometres and well over two million people. As a result, the OPP is one of the largest police services in North America, with more than 6,200 uniformed officers.
As Kevin Walker reflects as he rushes out to the crime scene at the beginning of BURN COUNTRY, the OPP Leeds County Crime Unit is responsible for investigating criminal offenses in "a rural jurisdiction covering 2,100 square kilometres with only 35,000 inhabitants scattered along county roads and back lanes that hooked and bent around countless lakes, swamps, and rivers. "
One of the questions explored in this series, then, is how such a large police bureaucracy with such an extensive mandate can still deliver effective service to a thinly-populated rural area like Leeds County.
Detective Inspector Ellie March, born and raised in Toronto, is a resource assigned out of OPP General Headquarters to lead the investigation of major cases in East Region, including homicides. Detective Constable Kevin Walker, on the other hand, was born and raised in Leeds County and comes to the crime unit from a defunct local village police service. Together, they represent the meeting point between a large, bureaucratic force and its individual boots-on-the-ground.
Readers who enjoyed Henning Mankell's portrayal of rural policing in Sweden in Faceless Killers, for example, his first Kurt Wallander novel, will want to see how it's done in Canada. BURN COUNTRY will be available for review in two weeks.