MysteryPeople Review: CANARY by Duane Swierczynski


Duane Swiercynski is one of the most exciting genre authors practicing today. He has an ability to use his knowledge and passion for crime, horror, and sci-fi and create something fresh and unique, not just a simple homage. He also has the ability to write a different book each time, even in his Charlie Hardie trilogy. Duane proves both of these facts in his latest, Canary.

The set-up and tone for Canary’s opening chapter suggest a satirical direction like some of his previous novels, including The Blonde and Severance Package. Sarie Holland, a college freshman, drives a boy she likes to a sketchy side of Philadelphia. She learns too late that it was a drug pick up. The boy runs off, leaving her with the drugs and arrested. To avoid prosecution, she agrees to be a confidential informant for an ambitious narcotics detective. Soon, she is playing a complex cat-and-mouse game with cops and criminals while keeping it quiet from the school and her family.

Swierczynski writes to a more realistic feel than in previous books. He portrays Philadelphia’s suburbs and mean streets with equal believable detail. The cop and criminal passages have the feel of a great Seventies movie like The Seven Ups or The Friends Of Eddie Coyle. The violence is swift, random, and rarely applied with much skill.

It is in his depiction of Sarie where truly he excels. Swierczynski depicts her predicament in both a raw and sober tone, taking a girl at an age where you’re just starting to navigate the complexities of your emotions and putting those feelings through extreme circumstances. Part of this is done by with first person sections that are done in the form of Sarie writing to her recently deceased mother. Much like Tarantino at his best, Swierczynski has the ability to to deliver all the colorful genre goods, then hit us with an earned poignancy when we least expect it.

Canary has everything we like about Duane Swierczynski’s work. The dialogue is crisp, the action passages more with a visceral force, and it has a master craftsman’s pace. However that pace, is less frantic as usual. He appears to be going in a different direction, playing more to emotions, putting more faith in character. Canary shows you’ll follow Daune Swierczynski wherever he goes.

You can find copies of Canary on our shelves and via

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