Written by Scott Thornley

Review written by Jim Napier

Jim Napier is the crime fiction reviewer for the Sherbrooke Record, based in Canada, and the creator of the award-winning website He can be reached at

Random House Canada
RRP: $24.99
Released: 8th May 2012

Some people just have too large a slice of the pie.  Over the past three decades Canadian author Scott Thornley has carved out an impressive career as a marketing guru, earning over 175 international awards for design, and has, for his achievements, been inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. 

Apparently not satisfied, Thornley turned his hand to crime writing.  His debut novel Erasing Memory was released in 2011, and established him as an emerging talent to watch.  Now the second in the series, The Ambitious City, has been published, and it confirms Thornley’s growing mastery of the genre.

When construction workers dredging the harbour in Dundurn, Ontario for a high-visibility waterfront museum project uncover the remains of not one, but two separate sets of bodies, it spells trouble for the Mayor and his plans to revitalise the industrial city.  The first pair of corpses has been found in the trunk of a submerged car, and dates from seventy years earlier; it has, of course, to be looked into, but the odds are that the perpetrators are long dead.  More troubling is the discovery of two other bodies encased in concrete columns; they can only have been placed there recently.  Both finds come hard on the heels of the unearthing of a major gravesite on biker property which contains the remains of seven shrink-wrapped corpses. It all spells a busy time for Detective Superintendent MacNeice and his team.

But before he can make any headway in the case MacNeice is soon handed another crisis: a psychopath is viciously mutilating and murdering young women of colour, taunting the police by posting cellphone photos of his victims on the Internet.  MacNeice is forced to divide his team between the two cases, and, in an effort to track down the killer, brings in Detective Fiza Aziz – herself a visible minority figure – to help with the case.  It is a fateful decision that will put both their lives on the line.

Still struggling with his own recurring nightmares concerning the loss of his wife, Kate, four years earlier, MacNeice has to unravel a tangled skein of plots and sub-plots involving organized crime, biker gangs and ex-servicemen who have returned from the horrors of Afghanistan.

The Ambitious City is built around a topical, layered storyline told from multiple points of view, and firmly anchored in nuanced characters and assured writing.  It’s always a bonus for a reviewer to be able to confirm that a major new crime-writing talent has emerged, and Scott Thornley is just that. The Ambitious City puts to rest the old publisher’s canard that crime fiction set in Canadian cities is simply not of interest to readers; it is a fine police procedural/thriller that can hold its own against crime novels set anywhere in the world.

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