Mystery Minute: A New 49th Shelf Series

There are 20 mysteries here, and every one of them has great reviews. We have the utmost confidence that some of you can make your way through at least half of them by the end of June. Or sooner?

Mystery Minute is a new 49th Shelf series that will run four times a year in the spring, summer, fall, and winter.

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The Finger's Twist, by Lee Lamothe (Turnstone Press)

Charlie Tate and Elodie Gray make a striking couple. Charlie is a shaven-headed weightlifter who has worked as a seaman, carnival huckster and hustler and now earns his keep as an unlicensed private investigator specializing in extricating clients’ money from thieves. Elodie Gray comes from money—lots of money. An accident when she was a teen confined her to a wheelchair, so she does the inside work—using her computer knowledge to find people who want to remain hidden.

In The Finger’s Twist, Charles and Elodie are hired to investigate a bombing attempt at the Ontario legislature, purportedly committed by an anarchist group called The Black Bloc. While the city drops into paranoia fuelled by the police and the mayor, Charlie and Elodie try to keep the black sheep daughter of a prominent family from a certain prison sentence.

The Finger’s Twist is more than a whodunit—it’s the story of a romantic relationship that’s constantly in jeopardy from within and without.

**

A Cold White Fear, by R.J. Harlick (Dundurn Press)

Stranded by a blizzard at her isolated cabin, Meg Harris, an escapee from a failed marriage into the remote wilderness, finds herself in a desperate and terrifying situation when two strangers arrive.

As night approaches, a major blizzard has cut off road access to Meg Harris’s isolated wilderness home, Three Deer Point. She is alone with her young friend Adjidamo, preparing for Christmas, when a knock suddenly echoes through the house. She finds two strange men at her front door, one of them bleeding. Against her better judgment, she lets them in. At that moment, the power goes out, plunging the group into total darkness and severing all phone links to the outside world. So begin a terrifying twenty-four hours that have Meg summoning up a courage she didn’t know she had to get herself and Adjidamo out alive.

**

Beware This Boy, by Maureen Jennings (McClelland & Stewart)

November, 1940. Tom Tyler, Detective Inspector of the small Shropshire town of Whitchurch, is a troubled man. The preceding summer had been a dark one for Britain, and even darker for Tom's own family and personal life. So he jumps at the opportunity to help out in the nearby city of Birmingham, where an explosion in a munitions factory has killed or badly injured several of the young women who have taken on dangerous work in support of the war effort.

At first, it seems more than likely the explosion was an accident, and Tom has only been called in because the forces are stretched thin. But as he talks to the employees of the factory, inner divisions—between the owner and his employees, between unionists and workers who fear communist infiltration—begin to appear. Put that together with an AWOL young soldier who unwittingly puts all those he loves at risk and a charming American documentary filmmaker who may be much more than he seems, and you have a page-turning novel that bears all the hallmarks of Maureen Jennings' extraordinary talent: a multi-faceted mystery, vivid characters, snappy dialogue, and a pitch-perfect sense of the era of the Blitz, when the English were pushed to their limits and responded with a courage and resilience that still inspires.

**

The White Angel, by John MacLachlan Gray (Douglas & McIntyre)

Vancouver is in an uproar over the death by gunshot of a Scottish nanny, Janet Stewart. An almost deliberately ham-handed police investigation has Constable Hook suspecting a cover-up. The powerful United Council of Scottish Societies is demanding an inquiry. The killing has become a political issue with an election not far away.

The city is buzzing with rumours. Miss Stewart's fellow nannies have accused the Chinese houseboy of murder, capitalizing on a wave of anti-Chinese propaganda led by the Asian Exclusion League and enthusiastically supported by the sensational press—not to mention the Ku Klux Klan, which has taken up residence in upperclass Shaughnessy.

The White Angel is a work of fiction inspired by the cold case of Janet Smith, who, on July 26, 1924, was found dead in her employer's posh Shaughnessy Heights mansion. A dubious investigation led to the even more dubious conclusion that Smith died by suicide. After a public outcry, the case was re-examined and it was decided that Smith was in fact murdered; but no one was ever convicted, though suspects abounded—from an infatuated Chinese houseboy to a drug-smuggling ring, devil-worshippers from the United States, or perhaps even the Prince of Wales. For Vancouver, the killing created a situation analogous to lifting a large flat rock to expose the creatures hiding underneath.

An exploration of true crime through a literary lens, The White Angel draws an artful portrait of Vancouver in 1924 in all its opium-hazed, smog-choked, rain-soaked glory—accurate, insightful and darkly droll.

**

A Quiet Kill, by Janet Brons (TouchWood Editions)

The head of the Canadian High Commission’s trade section is found brutally clubbed and stabbed to death in the Official Residence in London, England. Scotland Yard’s Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Hay is called in to investigate, while Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Liz Forsyth is dispatched from Ottawa. There are a number of suspects from the diplomatic community: the High Commissioner and his beautiful wife, the smarmy head of the political section, the charming military attaché, the high-strung Deputy High Commissioner, and a deeply troubled engagements secretary. After a second murder, the case takes a turn and radical environmentalist Dr. Julian Cox becomes a suspect.

A Quiet Kill is the first in a new mystery series featuring Forsyth and Hay. Paired up for the first time, the two investigators must overcome insecurities and suspicions as they find themselves wading into the murky waters of the diplomatic community and navigating through a melee of international conspiracy, nationalism, and murder.

**

Ragged Lake, by Ron Corbett (ECW Press)

While working one afternoon on the Northern Divide, a young tree-marker makes a grisly discovery: in a squatter’s cabin near an old mill town, a family has been murdered.

An army vet coming off a successful turn leading a task force that took down infamous biker criminals, Detective Frank Yakabuski arrives in Ragged Lake, a nearly abandoned village, to solve the family’s murder. But no one is willing to talk. With a winter storm coming, Yakabuski sequesters the locals in a fishing lodge as he investigates the area with his two junior officers. Before long, he is fighting not only to solve the crime but also to stay alive and protect the few innocents left living in the desolate woods.

A richly atmospheric mystery with sweeping backdrops, explosive action, and memorable villains, Ragged Lake will keep you guessing—about the violent crime, the nature of family, and secret deeds done long ago on abandoned frontiers.

**

Strange Things Done, by Elle Wild (Dundurn Press)

As winter closes in and the roads snow over in Dawson City, Yukon, newly arrived journalist Jo Silver investigates the dubious suicide of a local politician and quickly discovers that not everything in the sleepy tourist town is what it seems. Before long, law enforcement begins treating the death as a possible murder and Jo is the prime suspect.

Strange Things Done is a top-notch thriller—a tense and stylish crime novel that explores the double themes of trust and betrayal.

**

The Winners' Circle, by Gail Bowen (McClelland & Stewart)

As Joanne Kilbourn-Shreve, her husband, Zack, and their soon-to-be seventeen-year-old daughter, Taylor, rush through the rain from their cottage to their car, the Thanksgiving weekend they just spent at the lake with Zack's law partners is already slipping away, burnished into memory as pleasantly as the hundreds of other weekends the Falconer-Shreve families have shared at Lawyers' Bay. Thoughts of the weekend past will now focus on the future and be prefaced by the words "next time."

Within weeks, a triple homicide will rip apart the lives of those related to the lawyers who, at the end of their first year in law school, only half-jokingly styled themselves "The Winners' Circle." Dazed by grief, Joanne will seek answers to an impossible question: "Why did they die?"

The facts behind the suicide of Christopher Altieri, known by his law partners as "the conscience of The Winners' Circle," appear to provide insights, but for Joanne those insights raise new, unsettling questions. Knitting this powerful narrative together is Joanne's unshakeable belief that the only thing worse than knowing is not knowing.

**

Flush, by Sky Curtis (Inanna Publications)

Robin MacFarland is a somewhat eccentric and highly intelligent journalist for the Home and Garden section of a Toronto paper, who at age fifty-five looks aghast in the mirror and pronounces herself, "Old. Fat. Alcoholic. Alone. Failure." She resolves to lose weight, quit drinking, and try online dating, although not, perhaps in quite that order. The intrigue begins when Robin chooses to cover a water cooling system conference where she thinks there will be a lot of men. By coincidence, her first online date is with the owner of the water company who is found dead after they have coffee. Dauntless, Robin wades into what is now a murder investigation, under the supervision of her new editor, and with the help of her best friend, Cindy, a crime reporter. The novel is framed around a plot to steal Canada's fresh water, but it hinges on Robin's hilarious journey through the middle portion of her life, a serious social issue, and a highly ironic murder weapon.

**

Open Season, by Peter Kirby (Linda Leith Publishing)

A Guatemalan journalist is kidnapped, and the only message from her kidnappers is the murder of her lawyer. In a race against time, Luc Vanier sets about reconstructing her life, through the sordid world of human trafficking, the secretive underbelly of a multinational mining corporation, and the hiding places of desperate refugees. When Vanier is brutally warned off the investigation, he throws away the rule book and goes after the villains with a vengeance.

**

Whipped, by William Deverell (ECW Press)

The toughest case of Beauchamp’s brilliant career features sex, slander, and dirty politics.

Montreal journalist Lou Sabatino, under witness protection after nearly being gunned down by the Mafia, is sucked into the quirky world of a conniving Russian dominatrix who has secretly recorded herself putting the whip to the bare bottom of a high-ranking federal cabinet minister.

It’s the scoop of the century, but too hot a potato—if Lou breaks the story, he risks exposing himself to the mercies of the Mafia. Instead, he shows the video to Green Party leader Margaret Blake. The video is leaked, and Margaret is sued by the minister for $50 million.

Enter Arthur Beauchamp, Margaret’s husband and famed criminal lawyer, who had found—or so he hoped—blissful retirement on idyllic Garibaldi Island on the West Coast. But now he’s representing the woman he loves while tormented by fears that she’s embroiled in an affair.

Whether you’re encountering Arthur Beauchamp for the first time or have followed him from his first case, Whipped will entertain as it keeps you turning the pages.

**

The Corpse with the Ruby Lips, by Cathy Ace (TouchWood Editions)

A gig as guest lecturer at the university in Budapest should have been a dream job for a travelling criminologist and food lover. But wherever Cait Morgan goes, murder seems to follow. One of Cait’s new students pleads with her to solve the mystery of her grandmother’s brutal slaying. She agrees, but when she is repeatedly hassled by a weird colleague, and as bizarre details about the student’s family members come to light, Cait is beset by uncertainty.

As she gets closer to the truth, Cait's investigation puts the powers-that-be on high alert, and her instincts tell her she's in grave danger. Bud races to Budapest to come to Cait's aid, but will it be too late?

**

Beach Strip, by John Lawrence Reynolds

"I’d rather laugh in bad taste than cry in good taste."

That’s how Josie Marshall deals with the death of her detective husband, Gabe, found naked outside their home on the beach with a bullet in his brain. Everyone calls it suicide. Josie knows it isn’t . . . but fears it could be. After all, she had provided Gabe with a motive. The clues are so strong that even Josie begins to believe Gabe shot himself. But when a horrific slaying occurs literally at her feet, she knows Gabe was murdered, and her determination to prove it carries her toward dark corners of the beach strip and exposes the darker sides of its residents. Fending off her fears with humour and outrage, she encounters a drug-crazed drifter, an organized-crime boss with romance on his mind, a woman with a murderous past and a pervert who’s been frequenting her garden shed. When a chance remark leads Josie to the astonishing truth of Gabe’s death, her story takes a shocking turn that no one could have seen coming.

**

It Begins in Betrayal, by Iona Wishaw (TouchWood Editions)

Summer descends over the picturesque King’s Cove as Darling and Lane’s mutual affection blossoms. But their respite from solving crime is cut short when a British government official arrives in Nelson to compel Darling to return to England for questioning about the death of a rear gunner under his command in 1943.

In Darling’s absence, Ames oversees the investigation into the suspicious death of a local elderly woman and uncovers a painful betrayal inflicted forty years earlier. Meanwhile, Lane follows Darling to London, where he is charged with murder and faces hanging. While desperately seeking answers, Lane is presented with a proposal that could save the man she loves, but only if she returns to the very life she sought to leave behind.

**

Cold Mourning, by Brenda Chapman (Dundurn Press)

When murder stalks a family over Christmas, Kala Stonechild trusts her intuition to get results.

It’s a week before Christmas when wealthy businessman Tom Underwood disappears into thin air—with more than enough people wanting him dead.

New police recruit Kala Stonechild, who has left her northern Ontario detachment to join a specialized Ottawa crime unit, is tasked with returning Underwood home in time for the holidays. Stonechild, who is from a First Nations reserve, is a lone wolf who is used to surviving on her wits. Her new boss, Detective Jacques Rouleau, has his hands full controlling her, his team, and an investigation that keeps threatening to go off track.

Old betrayals and complicated family relationships brutally collide when love turns to hate and murder stalks a family.

**

Beneath the Wake, by Ross Pennie (ECW Press)

Epidemic investigator Dr. Zol Szabo hopes an extended cruise on the Indian Ocean with his girlfriend and his son will salve the wounds of the rough times they’ve been weathering at home. As they set sail coddled in unaccustomed luxury on the Coral Dynasty, things below deck are a little less sunny for the ship’s physician. Dr. Noah Ferguson reckons that bandaging the wounds of the crew’s seedy missteps is just part of a job that comes with a fair share of loneliness, but he’s increasingly frustrated that the most rewarding aspect of his practice must remain unspoken. When a mysterious microbe cuts a lethal swath through the crew’s quarters, Noah enlists a reluctant Zol, who must put his vacation on hold to investigate the illness before it consumes everyone on board. As the body count climbs, it becomes apparent that everybody carries a secret in international waters. Miles from land, the captain makes the rules, and anything inconvenient gets tossed overboard to disappear beneath the wake.

**

Walt, by Russell Wangersky (House of Anansi Press)

From critically acclaimed author Russell Wangersky, comes a dark, psychological thriller about a man named Walt, a grocery store cleaner who collects the shopping lists people leave in the store and discard without thought. In his fifties, abandoned, he says, by his now-missing wife Mary, Walt is pursued by police detectives unsatisfied with the answers he’s given about her disappearance.

Almost invisible to the people who pass him every day, the grocery lists he collects, written on everything from cancelled cheques to mortgage statements to office stationary, give him a personal hold over those who both ignore him and unwittingly disclose facets of their lives to him.

When a new cold case squad is formed in St. John’s to look into Mary’s disappearance, the detectives begin to realize that Walt may be involved in more than just his wife’s disappearance.

Set in modern-day Newfoundland, after reading Walt, you’ll be sure to never let your shopping list fall to the floor ever again.

**

Boundary, by Andree Michaud, translated by Donald Winkler (Biblioasis)

In the deep woods of the Maine borderlands, the legend of huntsman Pete Landry is still told around cottage campfires to scare children, a tragic story of love, lust, and madness. During the early summer of 1967, inseparable teenage beauties Sissy Morgan and Zaza Mulligan wander among the vacation cottages in the community of Boundary, drinking and smoking and swearing, attracting the attention of boys and men. First one, and then the other, goes missing, and both are eventually found dead in the forest. Have they been the victims of freak accidents? Or is someone hunting the young women of Boundary? And if there is a hunter, who might be next? The Summer of Love quickly becomes the Summer of Fear, and detective Stan Michaud, already haunted by a case he could not solve, is determined to find out what exactly is happening in Boundary before someone else is found dead.

A story of deep psychological power and unbearable suspense, Andrée A. Michaud’s award-winning Boundary is an utterly gripping read about a community divided by suspicion and driven together by primal terror.

**

Accusation, by Catherine Bush (Goose Lane Editions)

An accusation, regardless of truth, has its own life when let loose in the world.

Accusation, hailed by the Globe and Mail as "a psychological thriller . . . deeply considered, calm on the surface yet, on closer reading, full of ambiguities," again proves Bush to be one of Canada's finest authors. Examining the impracticability of determining "truth," Bush crafts a tale the Montreal Gazette believes "could almost be a crime novel of the Scandinavian variety, striding headlong into the murkier reaches of human motivation."

While in Copenhagen, journalist Sara Wheeler happens upon a touring Ethiopian circus. After a friend begins a documentary about the circus, unsettling charges begin to float to the surface—disturbing tales of sexual and physical abuse. Accounts and anecdotes mount, denunciations fly, and while we strive to untangle the narrative slipknots, the concept of "truth" begins to unravel.

Travelling from Canada to Ethiopia and Australia, Accusation follows a network of lives that intersect with life-altering consequence, painfully revealing that the best of intentions can still lead to disaster.

**

White Sand Blues, by Vicki Delaney (Orca Book Publishers)

When paramedic Ashley Grant finds her boyfriend in bed with another woman, she moves out of her house (okay, his house), quits her job and takes a new one in a tiny Caribbean country, the Victoria and Albert Islands. Ashley is thrown into the deep end when she arrives. Her new colleague picks her up at the airport in the island's only ambulance, which is called to the discovery of a body floating off the beach at the exclusive Club Louisa.

The body is that of a man vacationing with his daughter and glamorous new wife. Coincidentally, Sally, the daughter of the dead man, recognizes Ashley from high school. She is convinced that her stepmother killed her father and begs Ashley to help her prove it. Before she can even unpack her bags or enjoy the view from her ocean-side apartment, Ashley is unwittingly dragged into a murder investigation.

April 25, 2018
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