Susan Calder's Deadly Fall

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Dennis Oppenheim's "Device to Root Out Evil" was installed in Ramsay, a few blocks away from the murder site in Susan Calder's novel. The sculpture became a landmark during its stay in Calgary between 2008 and 2014. (Photo: Calgary Public Library, Judith Umbach Photograph Collection) 

Dennis Oppenheim's "Device to Root Out Evil" was installed in Ramsay, a few blocks away from the murder site in Susan Calder's novel. The sculpture became a landmark during its stay in Calgary between 2008 and 2014. (Photo: Calgary Public Library, Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Paula Savard notices the crime scene on her way home from work. Yellow tape blocks the entrance to the Elbow River trail by the railway bridge near her house in Ramsay. Police officers in coveralls scour the site. In her renovated clapboard-and-stucco bungalow, Paula listens in disbelief as a reporter identifies the murder victim: Paula’s girlhood friend, Callie Moss. The next day in her kitchen, Paula tells two Calgary police detectives how a summer road trip in 1973 from Montreal to Vancouver ended with both friends living in Calgary. After Callie’s fling with a folk rock musician that summer, she married an oilman and settled into a comfortable life in Mount Royal. For Paula, the decision to move to Calgary happened twenty years later: a fresh start with unexpected turns.

 

Most people assumed they had moved to escape the sour mood that permeated English Quebec after the 1995 independence referendum. The move was more to rejuvenate their personal lives. She was tired of working for a large insurance firm. Gary, her husband, was tired of being a small insurance agent, but couldn’t find anything better due to his lack of fluency in French. Most of their friends had already left Montreal. They decided to hopscotch Ontario and try Calgary. They liked its gung-ho atmosphere. Callie was here; Gary got along with her then husband, Kenneth.

The water jug was empty. She got up to refill it, glad for the opportunity to stretch her legs. With the sun’s movement to the front of the house, the kitchen had grown cool and dark. The unstated reason, even at the time, for her and Gary’s move to Calgary was a hope that the change would boost their stagnant marriage.

 

Susan Calder, Deadly Fall (Touchwood Editions, 2011)