Deacon Riis

Created by John Jantunen

To say that bumbling newshawk DEACON RIIS is the hero of No Quarter (2018) would be misleading.

In this thriller, the first of a proposed trilogy by Canadian writer John Jantuen, Deacon, the only full-time reporter for local paper The Chronicle, is nobody’s hero. Not even that of Rain, the woman twenty years his senior who he’s been sleeping with. Nope, mild-mannered Deacon is just one of several young men caught up in a crossfire of events as they jockey for some sort of rough justice in small town of Tildon, deep in Ontario cottage country.

Deacon’s mother, father and younger brother were killed in a car crash when he was a kid, and he went to live with Adele and George Cleary, a local author known for a dozen violent, apocalyptic novels. Deacon may not be setting the world on fire, and his journalistic ambitions may be regularly quashed by his conservative editor, but he’s getting by.

But things take a turn for the worse when a wealthy businessman Ronald Crane is discovered dead inside a flaming van. The prime suspect? Rene Descartes, an ex-con nine months out, with some serious anger issues, living in a beatdown trailer parked out by Hidden Cove, a snooty, secluded lakeside enclave where the rich and famous from Toronto frolic in the summer months. But when Rene is brutally beaten by one of Hidden Cove’s inhabitants, the son of a wealthy businessman,  it seems to prompt a series of unsettling and increasingly violent local events unfold that include a possible plot literally to burn the whole town to the ground — a conspiracy that Deacon can’t help but notice seems to mirror events in George’s potboilers.

But it goes deeper than that — the whole book is full of literary shucks and jives, digressions and oodles of backstory (including lengthy family trees), plus entire blocks of George’s novels pasted directly into this ambitious book-within-a-book, a catch-and-release method that enriches the story but occasionally slows down the plot.

Or does it just give readers a chance to catch their breath?

Because Jantunen’s adrenalin-rushed, blistering descriptions and revved up plotting burn pretty hot. A breather now and then might help.

It seems clear Jantuen plans an entire series around this book… we’ll see.


As I mentioned, the author is Canadian, and claims to have lived  in almost every region of The Great White North, currently residing in Kingston, Ontario (the Home of the Hip!). His first novel, Cipher, was shortlisted for a 2014 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in the mystery category and No Quarter was nominated for a 2019 Shamus Award. He even lived lived in Montreal on rue de Rouen for a year, right behind the Export A factory, so I guess he’s okay.


  • No Quarter has the skeleton of a thriller, but author John Jantunen consistently zigs where other narratives would zag, creating a story that is far stranger and disturbing. . . the connections add a wonderful layer of dread to No Quarter.
    — Shelf Awareness


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.



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