Joe Grundy

Created by Marc Strange

So there I am, feeling homesick. And then Marc Strange’s Sucker Punch (2007) arrived at my door.

As the editor of this site, and a sometime-reviewer, my mailbox is often full of treasures, and nothing delights this Canadien errant more than a package from home, and this one was from Toronto’s Castle Books. I slashed open the envelope and dumped out the book, and started to read the back cover blurb.

Let’s see what we got here…

JOE GRUNDY, ex-pug, who once got KOed out by Evander Holyfield.


Currently working the Lord Douglas, some swank joint in downtown Vancouver, as a hotel dick.


Dipshit, suddenly rich kid gets a premature trip to the pearly gates, courtesy of five or so slugs, while on Joe’s watch, and Joe has to do what a Joe’s gotta do.


Sounded good. And of course I’m always in the market for a good Canadian P.I. This one looked promising. Very promising, actually, after scanning the first few pages. This is going right to the top of my TBR pile, I thought.

Then I flipped the book back to the front cover. Talk about a sucker punch.

But alarming coincidences aside, this one was a keeper. The author has a knack for creating colourful (but not cartoony) characters, which draws you in and pays off nicely when the going gets nasty. He displays considerable narrative muscle and serious storytelling chops.

In fact, the breezy style, Joe’s easy-going manner, his developing relationship with an attractive TV reporter and a well-rendered fight scene between the ex-palooka and a bigger, stronger, younger opponent recalls nobody so much as early Robert B. Parker. I’ve read a lot of private eyes from the Great White North over the years, but Joe is one of the best and most enjoyable I’d come across in donkey’s ages. And a few years later, Joe returned with Body Blows (2009), a more-than-worthy follow-up. It nabbed the 2010 Edgar for Best Paperback Original, and was short-listed for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original Novel .

I thought I smelled franchise here. Alas, I smelled incorrectly.


Ottawa-born Marc Strange certainly has his Canadian cred down pat. The co-creator of the long-running CBC television series The Beachcombers, a family show about a multi-cultural gang of log scavengers on BC’s rugged west coast? I mean, how much more Canadian can you get? As a producer and actor, he’s bummed around both in back and in front of the cameras for years, appearing in numerous films and TV shows (Hey! Wasn’t he biker number three?).


  • “…a subtle blend of hardboiled style and noir sensibility in a satisfying who-done-it. Author Strange skillfully tangles webs of failure and deceit behind the sunny superficiality of familiar Canadian character types, giving them credible personalities.”
    — Murder Out There




Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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