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Almost Criminal (A Crime in Cascadia Mystery) Paperback – May 14, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Tate MacLane is too smart for his own good, a sort of misguided prodigy. Prematurely graduated from high school, he was tossed out of university (“socialization issues”). Now 17, he’s working at a coffee shop in Wallace, British Columbia, a “hopeless corner of nowhere,” and dreaming of finding a way to get back to Vancouver and back to school. Along comes Randle Kennedy, a marijuana grower. Until the drug is legalized, he’s growing medical weed, and the Canadian cops tend to be lenient if they know you’re in the medicinal side of the business. But make no mistake: Randle’s a drug dealer. And young Tate is now working for him. When Tate discovers the truth about the life he’s wandered into, he knows it will take more than his keen intellect to get him out safely. Tate is a fresh narrative voice, and Randle, who could have been a fairly stereotypical drug-dealing villain, has surprising depth; he’s even a weird sort of father figure for young Tate. If you took a gritty crime novel and a coming-of-age story and squashed them together, you might get something very close to this fine book. --David Pitt

Review

If you took a gritty crime novel and a coming-of-age story and squashed them together, you might get something very close to this excellent book. (Booklist [starred review])

. . . the novel is instructive for its insights into the finances of the grow op business. (Toronto Star)

Well-researched and convincingly told, ALMOST CRIMINAL is a revealing look at the dark world of the illicit pot business from the perspectives of grow-ops, distributors, users, and the gangs that lie behind them. (Reviewing the Evidence.com)

This is funny and twisted in the same vein as Breaking Bad (but very Canadian on the crime) with tons of great Lower Mainland vibes. This is Brown’s debut and it’s an auspicious one. (The Globe and Mail)

The book is impeccably researched . . . (Quill & Quire)

Almost Criminal tells a tale about parallel worlds, the one we live in and that instant society that flies under our radar. It's a tightrope from which one fall is fatal. Author E.R.Brown lays out the territory with tight pacing and insightful dialogue that captures the panic that is but one mistake away.

. . . some surprising revelations and resolutions lead to an enjoyable read.
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Product Details

  • Series: A Crime in Cascadia Mystery (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Dundurn (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1459705831
  • ISBN-13: 978-1459705838
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,570,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a career writer - and an Edgar Award nominee for my first novel, Almost Criminal

After nearly two decades of writing advertising, annual reports, speeches, and the like, I decided to stop talking about writing a novel and start writing it.

It took a while. I attended courses - had some literary short stories published - then did the Banff Centre's Wired Writing workshop. Twice. The second time, I had Lawrence Hill (writer of Book of Negroes aka Somebody Knows My Name) as a mentor.

Almost Criminal was published in the spring of 2013. The Toronto Globe & Mail said it's "funny and twisted in the same vein as Breaking Bad... This is Brown's debut and it's an auspicious one."

Then in January of 2014, it was one of only six novels nominated for an Edgar Award in the Paperback Original category.

For more, visit www.erbrown.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim Napier, mystery & crime fiction reviewer on February 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
Author and journalist E. R. Brown delivers a cautionary tale in his debut novel about a young man who is drawn into the thriving-but-still-illicit pot business in rural British Columbia, and soon learns it is far easier to get in than get out.

Tate Maclean is a seventeen-year-old prodigy who garnered a university scholarship on the strength of his early promise. But that was before his mother Elsbeth came down with cancer and his grades went through the floor. Kicked out of university, he turned to looking after her and his younger sister, Bree. Beth is prone to manic episodes, and Tate has become the sole support of the family. Facing a dead-end existence he’s working in the Fraser Valley town of Wallace, B.C., pulling lattes and expressos at a local coffee bar to make ends meet. Like much of British Columbia the region is awash in counter-culture types, including aging draft-resisters from the Vietnam War living cheek by jowl with bikers and an affluent younger crowd driving SUVs and sipping designer coffees to get their buzz. A drug by any other name.

One day Randle Kennedy, a customer at the coffee bar, asks Tate to deliver an envelope in exchange for a twenty-dollar tip; needing the money, he soon finds himself drawn into the shadowy world of the local pot industry. Kennedy is a charismatic figure who drives a bright yellow Porsche Speedster and lives in a gated waterfront retreat outside of town. Unknown to the Boys in Scarlet, at grow-ops across the Fraser Valley Kennedy produces a range of custom strains of pot for connoisseurs.
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At seventeen, Tate MacLane can see no way out of the little town of Wallace in British Columbia. A bit of a prodigy, he had started college on a full scholarship at fifteen, but blew the scholarship and was sent home to his mother and younger sister. Elsbeth Templeton, or Beth, as both of her children call her, is an artist of some note but little wealth. Just as her career was taking off she had developed cancer and couldn't paint for over a year. Tate, home from college, is now the sole support of the family. His job as part-time barista at Human Beans, the only coffee shop in town, isn't enough. He desperately wants another shot at college, but sees no way to accomplish it.

The countryside around Wallace is host a number of marijuana growing sites. The resisters of the Vietnam era who fled to Canada brought the habit and seeds with them. While they keep a low profile, marijuana use for medical purposes has been legal in Canada for a number of years, and more recently in several US states.

One day a well-heeled regular customer asks Tate to secretly deliver a letter to a woman at an another table. He leaves the envelope and a twenty dollar tip. Kennedy, who runs a boutique marijuana operation, is as much a perfectionist about his weed as about his coffee. He ships his specialty seeds all over the world via the internet. He appreciates Tate's care and skill in preparing his coffee, and wants the boy in his operation. The biker gang that controls distribution in that area is not too greedy, and there is no violence until the impending wider legalization in the US brings a bigger, nastier, and more professional set of thugs from across the border into sleepy Wallace.
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By Fizzy on June 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
The story follows Tate, a 17 year-old former protégé and a current Barista in rural British Columbia, who lost focus in his life and dropped out of college. When encountered with a chance, he willingly jumps into pot industry of Vancouver and BC.

This quasi-legal status of Marijuana business involves well-planned agribusiness structures, pot cafes/medical dispensaries, medical marijuana vs recreational, biker gangs, and eccentric rural Vancouver people. Throughout pages, I was cheering for Tate, who just wants to make money and return to school in fall.

The author captured the momentum of what’s going on in Marijuana industry as well as the ambiguity of being a teenager. This book was nominated for 2014 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original. Mr. Brown will not waste your time with his very first debut novel. I will look forward to reading his followup works.
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By Ed Battistella on March 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
Shades of Breaking Bad. In Almost Criminal, E. R. Brown introduces us to Tate MacLane, a prodigy working as a barista after he gets kicked out of college. Tate is recruited by Canadian marijuana entrepreneur Randle Kennedy, who’s building a business model and client base anticipating legalization. But the business is still criminal and things don’t go smoothly for Tate, who finds selling pot a tougher business than he had anticipated. Almost Criminal is funny and poignant and we come to care about Tate, his family, his sort of girlfriend Rachel, and even Randle and his gang.
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By Sara on July 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
Wow! It's a terrific read. Well written, with vivid characters, a plot that moves along at a good clip and makes you wonder what the next twist will be, where the duplicities will end, and how Tate will turn out. He is a very sympathetic character, as is Rachel. Maybe it's my grandmotherly-ness, but I worried about them all along. The last question isn't answered, and I had to look at the opening lines of the book to be sure I had it right. A journey for the young character and the reader.
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