Shelf Talkers: The Mystery Edition
There’s probably been research done on this, but I think it’s a well-established enough truth as to not require footnoting: winter is the perfect time of year for mysteries. Whether it’s the punishing cold, the latent isolation, the stark quality of the light through the skeletal trees, the barren, dark ground... it’s easy to imagine the world littered with crime scene tape and evidence tags, mysteries lurking in the shadows, in the seemingly endless twilight.
As a result, it’s likely no accident that many of the best mysteries in recent memory are Scandinavian in origin.
And, it has to be said, Canadian.
While readers likely need no reminder, the recent success of CTV’s Cardinal (based on Giles Blunt’s Forty Words for Sorrow) alerted many viewers to the high quality of homegrown crime fiction.
Which is—as you might suspect—a subject dear to the hearts of Canada’s independent booksellers, who have eagerly weighed in with their own recommendations for the waning days of winter.
Bundle up—you’re in for a chilling night.
The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)
The Pick: Sing a Worried Song, by William Deverell
In Sing a Worried Song, the sixth novel in the Beauchamp series, Deverell revisits a murder case 30 years in his detective's past. The one time that Arthur Beauchamp decided to work for the prosecution and put a man away for brutally killing a clown is coming back to haunt him. This is Deverell at the top of his game with his wonderfully cantankerous detective and familiar Canadian settings making this a fantastic read for any mystery fan.
The Bookseller: Jenn Hubbs, Curiosity House Books (Creemore, Ontario)
The Pick: A Shimmer of Hummingbirds: A Birder Murder Mystery, by Steve Burrows
The fourth book in this unique police procedural series with Chief Inspector Domenic Jejune gives us two settings: first the rainforests of Columbia as well as Saltmarsh in Norfolk. This time, Jejune is on a birding holiday while he attempts to find evidence to discover the true story behind his brother's charge of manslaughter. Meanwhile, back home, his colleague Marvin Laraby is heading a murder investigation that has hidden layers. Burrows' mysteries benefit from a unique premise (Canadian border policeman living and working in Norfolk), but their strengths really lie in excellent character development. Readers are invested in what happens to Jejune, Hey and the others, and the birding references will be of interest to even non-birders. With four books to the series, it is easy to start from the beginning in order to understand the full narrative.
The Bookseller: Chadwick Ginther, University of Manitoba Bookstore (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
The Pick: Michael Van Rooy's Criminal series
The novels of Michael Van Rooy’s Criminal series—An Ordinary Decent Criminal, Your Friendly Neighbourhood Criminal, and A Criminal to Remember—feature reformed (mostly) crook Monty Haaviko. Monty takes on corrupt cops, drug dealers, human traffickers, and deranged stalkers while trying to maintain the straight-and-narrow life of a family man. Van Rooy's attention to detail, and Monty's encyclopaediac trivia for the details of the criminal life make a unique, entertaining, and thoroughly Canadian, read.
The Bookseller: Rebecca Sanger, Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)
The Pick: The Twilight Wife, by A.J. Banner
Filled with suspense and betrayal, The Twilight Wife is a psychological rollercoaster that leaves you contemplating how well you know those around you.
The Bookseller: David Worsley, Words Worth Books (Waterloo, ON)
The Pick: The Hesitation Cut, by Giles Blunt
The Cardinal series will be forever what Giles Blunt is most known for and that makes perfect sense.
However, his standalone stuff, like The Hesitation Cut, is wonderfully put together as well.
Peter works in a monastery library in eastern Pennsylvania. He's largely buried a checkered past and has found something approaching contentment. When a New York writer comes looking for some obscure texts on a medieval philosopher for her manuscript, Peter's dormant heart starts to beat.
The Hesitation Cut is a slow burn of a thriller that plays with the unreliable narrator on multiple levels and as the air lets out of the room in this interior mystery, the revelation are equal parts unsettling and expected.
This is akin to watching a car wreck in real time, and a hell of a piece of fiction.
PS: For more on CanCrime, see this fantastic interview with crime fiction columnist Sarah Weinman.