R.J. Harlick's Meg Harris was included on our Canadian Sleuth Lit Wish List in December, an amateur sleuth "who drinks a little too much and is afraid of the dark." She appears most recently in Harlick's latest novel, Silver Totem of Shame, in which Meg encounters the crime scene of a murdered Haida carver while on a visit to Vancouver and begins a journey up the coast to the islands of the Haida Gwaii in search of the murdered boy's family and his killer.
While she's not cooking up new plot twists, Harlick fulfils her duties as President of Crime Writers of Canada. In this guest post, she offers a coast-to-coast perspective on the Canadian crime writing scene.
These are exciting times for Canadian crime writing. With books by Canadian writers appearing more and more frequently on both national and international bestseller lists or as finalists and winners of national and international book awards, I feel we have finally arrived. It is hard to believe that 30 years ago, when Crime Writers of Canada was established, there were only a handful of authors writing distinctly Canadian mysteries. Today there are well over 250. I like to think we Canadians are the next wave to take the mystery reading world by storm.
With so many fabulous recent releases, it is difficult to choose just a few, so I thought perhaps a journey across Canada might be the best way to highlight the mystery scene and give you an opportunity to explore our great country through reading these books.
Discover the dark underside of beautiful British Columbia in Long Gone Man, the first in Phyllis Smallman’s Singer Brown series set in the Gulf Islands. Or you can travel up the coast to Haida Gwaii, the mystical islands of the Haida, the setting of my newest Meg Harris mystery, Silver Totem of Shame. E.R. Brown’s Almost Criminal offers an intriguing insight into one of B.C.’s biggest exports. Beneath the Bleak New Moon, the third installment in the Casey Holland mysteries by Debra Purdy Kong will take you on a wild ride through the streets of Vancouver.
If you like the Rockies, try Open Secret, Deryn Collier’s latest book in the coroner Bern Fortin series set in the Kootenays or Vicki Delany’s Under Cold Stone, the seventh in the Constable Molly Smith series which has the young cop travelling to one of Canada’s idyllic mountain towns, Banff.
If your penchant is to explore the north you can go on a canoeing adventure down the Nahanni River in The Whisper of Legends, Barbara Fradkin’s ninth book in her award winning Inspector Green series.
Stephen Legault’s latest Cole Blackwater mystery, The Glacier Gallows, will have you racing through the Porcupine Hills of Alberta and down to Waterton-Glacier International Park. You can delve into Edmonton’s short but rich past in Condemned to Repeat, the fifth in the Randy Craig academic mystery series by Janice MacDonald. Or you can pay Regina a visit, in Gail Bowen’s The Gifted, the 14th in her award-winning Joanne Kilbourn series.
Small-town Ontario isn’t quite so quiet in Gloria Ferris’ Corpse Flower, the first in the Cornwall and Redfern mystery series. Nor is tobacco country in Up In Smoke, the third Dr. Zol Szabo medical mystery by Ross Pennie. And Ottawa isn’t so staid either. Brenda Chapman explores its nasty underside in Cold Mourning, the first in the Stonechild and Rouleau series.
It’s been a long time since Toronto was called "Toronto the Good" and Robert Rotenberg explores every inch of its badness during municipal elections in Stranglehold,the fourth Detective Ari Greene book. Jack Batten’s Take Five, the long awaited third in the Crang series, doesn’t paint Toronto in any better light.
Montreal has been a popular city for murder with a couple of Toronto writers revisiting their childhood roots in recent crime novels. Howard Shrier’s PI Jonah Geller takes on a new job in Montreal in Miss Montreal, the fourth in the award winning series, while John McFetridge’s Black Rock is set against the 1970’s backdrop of the FLQ crisis. Montrealer Peter Kirby explores his city’s corruption in Vigilante Season, the second in the Inspector Luc Vanier series.
Moving on to the Eastern Townships, Chief Inspector Gamache finds himself once again enmeshed in murderous intrigue in the snows of Three Pines in How the Light Gets In, the ninth book in Louise Penny’s award winning series.
The title says it all in Something Fishy, Hilary MacLeod’s fourth Shores mystery set on not-always-bucolic Prince Edward Island. In Halifax, Father Burke and lawyer Monty Collins join forces in Blood on a Saint, Anne Emery’s seventh book in her award winning Burke-Collins series.
We Canadians are also avid travellers and many crime writers set their books beyond our borders in such far-flung places as Hong Kong, Polynesia, the Guernsey Islands and Mexico in addition to U.S.A. and the U.K. But I will save these for another time.
On a final note, discover other Canadian mystery authors in the recently announced shortlists for the 2014 Arthur Ellis Awards. Recognizing the best in Canadian Crime writing, these awards have been given out annually since 1983. This year’s winners will be announced on June 5 at the Arthur Ellis Gala in Toronto. You can find the shortlists at www.crimewriterscanada.com.
R.J. Harlick is the current president of Crime Writers of Canada and the author of the Meg Harris mystery series set in the Canadian wilderness. Silver Totem of Shame is the latest and 6th book in the series.
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