“The goldfish bowl” by Laurence Gough

The Goldfish Bowl“, winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel from the Crime Writers of Canada is the first of thirteen police procedural novels featuring Detectives Willows and Parker. It was originally published in 1987.

The blurb:
An elusive serial sniper is on the loose in the dark, rain-swept streets of Vancouver, Canada.
Maverick veteran detective Jack Willows and his new partner, the beautiful Claire Parker, are assigned to bring him–or her–in.
But the case takes an unexpected and dangerous turn when the detectives discover that the sniper’s victims aren’t as random as originally thought . . . and that the sniper seems to know their every move before they make it.

Seemingly random people are being shot by a sniper in downtown Vancouver.  The police are baffled.  Sketchy eyewitness testimony relates that the sniper is a blond female, wearing a shiny mauve raincoat and white high-heeled shoes.

Various short chapters are written from the point of view of the sniper.  The sniper refers to himself as a ‘he’, so the reader is alerted to the fact that he dresses in drag.  Unlike other serial killers I have read about, he does not seem to enjoy his kills.  He refers to his situation as being ‘out of control’.
He cries himself to sleep…

At first there are two police partnerships described.

Willows and Parker: A new partnership. Claire Parker is an attractive twenty-eight year old. She has been partnered with Willows after his previous partner was hospitalized for cancer. Jack Willows is a veteran cop, married, though not currently living with his wife.

Franklin and Atkinson: Partners for a little over two years.  Franklin is a married man, large and somewhat slovenly. Atkinson is single, short, and a ‘ladies man’.  I found him an unsympathetic character while the long-suffering Franklin was more likable.

When ‘the sniper’ kills Dave Atkinson, one of their own, they become even more committed to apprehending the suspect and making the streets of Vancouver safer. Although they didn’t always get along, Franklin takes the loss of his partner very hard.  He loses weight and turns to alcohol.

One thing I liked about this novel is that the author introduces the reader to the victims, so that the reader has a more emotional response when reading of their demise.

The setting of contemporary Vancouver lends a gritty urban slant to this novel.  I quite enjoyed the writing style and I learned just enough about these characters that I am interested in following them further in the series.  The story seemed a little ‘dated’, but we must remember it was originally published in 1987. The ending had a twist that I really didn’t see coming. To date there are thirteen Willows and Parker novels, many of which have won awards.

I received my digital copy of this novel from Endeavor Press via NetGalley.


Laurence Gough was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and studied at Simon Fraser University. In addition to his books, Gough has written many radio dramas for the CBC. His international thriller, Sandstorm, won the Author Award (fiction) from the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters in 1991. He lives in Vancouver with his wife and two children.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in 1st in series, award winners, Canadian fiction, Mystery fiction, NetGalley and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to “The goldfish bowl” by Laurence Gough

  1. skyecaitlin says:

    Definitely sounds great! Two police partnerships is unusual, but I love character driven plots and the sniper’s point of view definitely is striking. I am wondering if these need to be read in order.


    • Fictionophile says:

      I’m not sure how important it is to read them in order. Since this is the first one, you could test to see if you like it.


  2. rashthedoctor says:

    Wow , that sounds like a fun series to read . But considering how long my TBR is already i don’t think i can read 13 book series now , also it’s actually hard to find in my country , not even Amazon have one for India . That said your post has intrigued me . On to the TBR shelf it goes


    • Fictionophile says:

      Thanks for your comment. I share your frustration. There have often been books that I want that are available on the UK Amazon that are not available on the Canadian Amazon. You would think that since I’m reading digitally, they would be available worldwide.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rashthedoctor says:

        Yeah , I’ve written the same to amazon on twitter many a times , they say it’s because publisher dont give them the rights to sell digital copies around the world or something


  3. Although you mentioned it’s a little dated, this does sounds interesting…I like the sniper angle.


  4. thefineideaswecrave says:

    hey there. you were following my blog but it somehow got deleted, so if you want to follow the new one, i would appreciate it https://uncoveringthefineideaswecrave.wordpress.com/ thank you!


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