"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books from all around the Internet and elsewhere. This month we've had fun finding books that fit our May editorial theme, which is Mystery. (And while we're on the subject, don't miss our amazing Crime Fiction Virtual Roundtable).
Blood Red Summer, by Wayne Arthurson
Métis journalist Leo Desroches has just been released from jail. Fortunately for him, he is re-hired at the paper to write a popular column about crime. It’s summer, the city is hot and buzzing with mosquitoes and it’s on track for a record number of homicides. Called to the scene of an apparent overdose of a young Native man in the inner city, Leo witnesses some rocks falling out of the body bag, and he picks them up. At first he believes they are crack cocaine, but discovers that the rocks are really rough diamonds. As he digs deeper into the story, he finds that the victim was a highly trained mudlogger at one of the new diamond mines in Canada’s High Arctic. Leo gets dragged into a deadly conflict between the mining companies and a murderous Native street gang, who are fighting for control of the development of another diamond mine. Caught in the middle of this billion-dollar conflict, Leo is also battling his own demons and fears. Will he get out of this struggle alive? (Publisher's Copy).
A Cast of Falcons, by Steve Burrows
There’s murder in this book, but it’s really about the illicit trade in birds of prey. Burrows introduces Jejeune’s brother, who is on the run from a felony charge; Jejeune’s attempts to protect his sibling cause chaos back in Saltmarsh, where a murder connected to a climate-change laboratory is being investigated. The novel also provides Jejeune’s second, Danny Malik, a major role, building up his character for the next book in the series. There are several other subplots...but it’s clear where Burrows is taking this series—more birds, and more murder. That’s a good thing.
Mutiny, mystery, murder; you may be thinking these words begin the description of a book in the fiction category. The Bastard of Fort Stikine, The Hudson’s Bay Company and The Murder of John McLoughlin Jr., by Debra Komar, uses the historical record and techniques of modern forensic science to unlock what happened on the night of April 21, 1842. It was then, at the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post at Fort Stikine, that Chif Trader John McLaughlin Jr. was murdered by his own men. In delving into this unsolved crime and its context, Komar paints a fascinating picture of the complex interpersonal and inter-cultural relationships which characterized the frontier work of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 19th century. The result, at once an historical portrait of the HBC, a glimpse into the life of 19th century Canada and a captivating murder investigation, makes for truly compelling reading and a book that is a significant achievement on many levels.
My Dinosaur, by François Turcot, translated by Erín Moure
Throughout this magnificent collection, we find fragments of memory that bring a father (the author’s) back to life. Oscillating between the shadows and the light, François Turcot presents his lines as though they were archaeological material and reminds us that (hi)story is made of fragments, which can only be told "shred by shred." The father has lost his diary he called his "Book of Hours," and so that’s what the son will try to piece back together. The result is both disturbing and brilliant.
Forensics Squad Unleashed, by Monique Polak
Polak’s books usually revolve around real places or experiences, though not necessarily ones she’s already familiar with. She often learns more about them first for shorter journalistic pieces. That was the case for her new book Forensics Squad Unleashed (for readers aged 8–11), which follows a group of young sleuths at forensics summer camp who work to solve a dognapping case. A former student of hers worked at the University of Toronto Forensics Science Summer Camp, and Polak visited to write an article for Maclean’s.
The book has lively, accessible details about using fingerprints, handwriting, and shoeprints to solve crimes. The spunky voice of Tabitha, the thirteen-year-old main character, opens the book: “Look, let’s be honest with each other. I don’t like you. You don’t like me. And I really wish you’d quit touching my Junior Encyclopedia of Forensic Science.” Polak calls Tabitha “nasty,” but she means it in the best possible way. “That’s fun for me because my persona in the world is like I don’t let the nasty out that much. And one of the great things about writing is that you explore different parts of yourself, the unexpressed.”
Who Broke the Teapot, by Bill Slavin
Some days (okay, a lot of days) it doesn’t make me much to fly off the handle, so I can totally relate to the mom in Bill Slavin’s Who Broke the Teapot?!. Her favourite teapot is broken (seriously! can we ever have nice things?) and no one is fessing up. Was it Dad, lounging about in his underwear with the paper? How ’bout Cat, tangled up in a ball of yarn? Or maybe Baby (don’t underestimate the little ones!) sitting in his highchair? Or was it someone else?... Who Broke the Teapot?! is a cute new picture book that’ll keep the little ones guessing and make you laugh at yourself.
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