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Beyond Gamache: 15 Fictional Detectives You Should Know

If you're a big fan of Louise Penny's bestselling Inspector Gamache series (and maybe—even especially—if you're not?), these are the crime fiction series you should be checking out next!

Merry Bell, by Anthony Bidulka

Book Cover Livingsky

Last seen: Livingsky (Coming in June)

About the book: Going home is not always the best answer. Forced to leave behind her big city dreams, Merry Bell returns to Livingsky Saskatchewan to start over. Living with plenty of secrets, but no money, friends, or place to live during a prairie winter-all while trying to start her own PI business-proves to be more challenging than she imagined. With a first case that quickly turns more dangerous than it first appeared, Merry must deal with a dodgy client, the murder of the surgeon who performed her gender affirming surgery, and more than one mysterious stranger.

For the first time since his award-winning Russell Quant novels, Bidulka begins a new mystery series, continuing in his tradition of presenting under-represented characters and settings that immediately feel familiar and beloved, while tugging at heart strings and tickling your funny bone. Livingsky easily matches the beauty and tenderness of Going to Beautiful while delivering a page-turning mystery.

Why we're taking notice: This is the first of a new series by Bidulka, who was the first Canadian to win the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men's Mystery for Flight of Aquavit, and has been celebrated by the Arthur Ellis Awards (now the The Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence) as well.


Lady Lucy Revelstoke, by Melodie Campbell

Book Cover The Merry Widow Murderes

Last seen: The Merry Widow Murders (Coming in May)

About the book: It’s the latter half of the Roaring Twenties and Lady Lucy Revelstoke, the unconventional widow of a young British lord, is once more crossing the Atlantic on a state-of-the-art ocean liner. Rubbing elbows with the era’s elite, Lucy has come a long way from her roots as the daughter of a Canadian mobster.

But when a dead man turns up in her stateroom on the first night of the voyage, Lucy wonders if her past has come back to haunt her. Who is this dead man? Is someone from her past trying to send her a message? Lucy doesn’t wait to find out. With her chivalrous friend Lord Tony, and Elf, her pickpocket-turned-maid, she endeavours to throw the body overboard. It does not go as planned.

When the body is discovered by authorities on the ship, Lucy must do everything in her power to find the murderer before they look too deeply into her past.

Why we're taking notice: Maureen Jennings, who knows a thing or two about sleuths, writes, "'Delightful’ is one of the first words that come to mind. The 1920s shipboard setting is beautifully observed; the plot will keep you guessing and the heroine, is … well … delightful. Not to be missed.”


Doctor Annick Boudreau, by Charles Demers

Book Cover Noonday Dark

Last seen: Noonday Dark

About the book: An exciting second installment in the Doctor Annick Boudreau Mystery Series, the endearing and unflappable Dr. Boudreau returns in this complex and nuanced portrait of psychology and a city.

When Dr. Boudreau is contacted by the Vancouver Police and informed that her patient Danielle has been reported missing and there’s a suicide note, the psychologist is shaken. Danielle, who was being treated for a major depressive episode, had been doing well—talking about her new relationship and the contract she just completed as a speechwriter for a bike-riding politician’s successful mayoral campaign.

Dr. Boudreau is, once again, on a mission to discover what really happened and joins forces with Danielle’s estranged father, Ivor, a former radical journalist turned right-wing blogger. Along the way, the realpolitik is illuminated in a clash over the Knight Street trucking route, protected by the Satan’s Hammer Motorcycle Club, who has a strong presence on the waterfront and refuse to relinquish the port traffic to the suburbs.

Discover the clash and charisma of a city embroiled in politics in this twisting and turning story. Charles Demers renders a divisive cityscape entangled in questions of ownership and change—who owns the city and who has the right to change it—with humour, edge and compassion, revealing the intricacies of a metropolis on the verge of myriad transformations.

Why we're taking notice: Oooh, this one was a gem! A mash-up of municipal politics, mental health and the stand-up comedy scene with a vivid Vancouver setting. We loved it.


Amanda Doucette, by Barbara Fradkin

Book Cover Wreck Bay

Last seen: Wreck Bay

About the book: Amanda Doucette pursues the connection between a reclusive artist and the wealthy surfer who turned up dead on a remote island in Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim in a wilderness-infused mystery perfect for fans of Jane Harper or Louise Penny.

While exploring the rugged landscape of Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim, Amanda Doucette is drawn to a reclusive old artist known only as Luke, who lives off the grid on a remote island. His vivid paintings hint at a traumatic secret from his past that brings to mind her own struggles with PTSD, and she begins to bond with him.

But when the body of a surfer washes up on the beach, Luke flees deep into the interior. What is the connection between Luke and the victim, and what does it have to do with Vietnam and a hippie commune from fifty years ago? Fearing Luke might do something desperate, Amanda searches for answers and races to find him before the police or the victim’s family get to him first.

Why we're taking notice: Psychologist-turned-novelist Fradkin has been delighting readers for almost 30 years, especially with her Ottawa-set Inspector Green series, but she's blazing a trail with the Amanda Doucette books as well


Bern Fortin, by Deryn Collier

Book Cover Open Secret

Last seen: Open Secret

About the book: After the abrupt end to his military career Bern has settled into an uneasy peace in his new life in Kootenay Landing—a peace he knows can’t last. Out for a fall hike, he discovers Dr. Juniper Sinclair, the town’s lone doctor, attempting to revive small-time drug dealer Seymour Melnychuk, who has been shot in the forehead. In a seemingly unrelated incident, Gary Dowd abandons his van while crossing the US border. Gary is a local father of two, an accountant, and a steady, predictable guy. He’s also been best friends with Seymour Melnychuk since elementary school.

Bern knows the two disturbing events must be related and works with police constable Maddie Schilling to uncover the hidden ties that connect the two cases. Why was Dr Sinclair already on the scene? Why is there no exit wound on Seymour’s body? Why did Gary Dowd disappear while trying to cross the border? Who truly controls the hills and forests around Kootenay Landing? Amidst the chaos of the case, Bern’s military background comes back to haunt him, forcing him to confront the secrets of his own past that he has long sought to keep buried.

As Bern and Schilling close in on the killer, each is drawn into the case personally and the stakes are higher than anyone can imagine. Everyone has something to hide, and no one in Kootenay Landing seems willing to talk. But Bern Fortin is well aware that no secret can remain buried forever—not even his own.

Why we're taking notice: In his final Toronto Star Whodnnit column, Jack Batten named Louise Penny and Collier ("[a] more under-the-radar [wonder]...adroit and funny") as two standout Canadian crime fiction authors, and we're also so excited for her new book, A Real Somebody, coming July 2023.


Hildie, the Valkyrie, by Jes Battis

Book Cover The Winter Knight

Last seen: The Winter Knight, by Jes Battis (Coming in April)

About the book: Arthurian legends are reborn in this upbeat queer urban fantasy with a mystery at its heart

The knights of the round table are alive in Vancouver, but when one winds up dead, it’s clear the familiar stories have taken a left turn. Hildie, a Valkyrie and the investigator assigned to the case, wants to find the killer—and maybe figure her life out while she’s at it. On her short list of suspects is Wayne, an autistic college student and the reincarnation of Sir Gawain, who these days is just trying to survive in a world that wasn’t made for him. After finding himself at the scene of the crime, Wayne is pulled deeper into his medieval family history while trying to navigate a new relationship with the dean’s charming assistant, Bert—who also happens to be a prime murder suspect. To figure out the truth, Wayne and Hildie have to connect with dangerous forces: fallen knights, tricky runesmiths, the Wyrd Sisters of Gastown. And a hungry beast that stalks Wayne’s dreams.

The Winter Knight is a propulsive urban fairy tale and detective story with queer and trans heroes that asks what it means to be a myth, who gets to star in these tales, and ultimately, how we make our stories our own.

Why we're taking notice: From Publishers Weekly, "Weaving endearing queer coming-of-age threads throughout the mythically grounded mystery, this satisfying reimagining delivers."


Domenic Jejeune, by Steve Burrows

Book Cover A Foreboding of Petrels

Last seen: A Foreboding of Petrels

About the book: The seventh Birder Murder Mystery. Some crimes are beyond the reach of the law.

On suspension and unable to work, DCI Domenic Jejeune finds his attention snared by an unexplained death at an Antarctic research base. Meanwhile, DS Danny Maik investigates a string of arson attacks in Norfolk.

When a corpse is discovered in a bird hide, Danny’s investigation escalates. It appears the body links the two enquiries, but the men are unable to share information. As they attempt to unravel a twisted web of leads involving Antarctic researchers, uncompromising climate scientists and billionaire philanthropists, Jejeune is forced to decide how much he is willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of truth.

Why we're taking notice: It's been a minute since Burrows' last Birder Murder Mystery, which we've loved from the start, and so we're excited to find out what's next for Jejeune and co.


Detective Inaya Rahman, by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Book Cover Blackwater Falls

Last seen: Blackwater Falls

About the book: Girls from immigrant communities have been disappearing for months in the Colorado town of Blackwater Falls, but the local sheriff is slow to act and the fates of the missing girls largely ignored. At last, the calls for justice become too loud to ignore when the body of a star student and refugee—the Syrian teenager Razan Elkader—is positioned deliberately in a mosque.

Detective Inaya Rahman and Lieutenant Waqas Seif of the Denver Police are recruited to solve Razan’s murder, and quickly uncover a link to other missing and murdered girls. But as Inaya gets closer to the truth, Seif finds ways to obstruct the investigation. Inaya may be drawn to him, but she is wary of his motives: he may be covering up the crimes of their boss, whose connections in Blackwater run deep.

Inaya turns to her female colleagues, attorney Areesha Adams and Detective Catalina Hernandez, for help in finding the truth. The three have bonded through their experiences as members of vulnerable groups and now they must work together to expose the conspiracy behind the murders before another girl disappears.

Delving deep into racial tensions, and police corruption and violence, Blackwater Falls examines a series of crimes within the context of contemporary American politics with compassion and searing insight.

Why we're taking notice: Because we've read it and it's awesome! We loved Khan's previous mystery series, set in Toronto, this new Colorado-set series is very of-the-moment and Khan's best work yet. 


Kes Morris, by C.S. Porter

Book Cover Beneath Her Skin

Last seen: Beneath Her Skin

About the book: When a small east coast town falls prey to a series of shocking murders, city homicide detective Kes Morris is called in to lead the case with the aid of the local precinct. As usual, she's the only woman in the room, and must draw on the lessons passed down by her detective father, a furtive and dangerous practice of going deep inside a killer's mind to put on their skin.

What Kes uncovers is a web of gruesome crimes reaching back decades, and a town that may have been complicit. With a reputation of being hard, relentless and unbending to authority, she finds herself on the hunt for a killer seeking brutal retribution, someone who takes sadistic pleasure in the death and wants their work seen. The farther she follows the trail, the more the line blurs between guilt and innocence, predator and prey.

An atmospheric thriller with complex characters, Beneath Her Skin signals the emergence of a bold new voice in crime fiction and a dark and thrilling new series.

Why we're taking notice: Consider the author bio! "This is C. S. Porter’s debut novel. A solitary writer who lives near the Atlantic Ocean, it is rumoured he or she was once involved in crime investigation; that Porter suffered an immense personal loss; that they came from the US or UK, or grew up in these parts. Age unknown. The author has never been interviewed." Intrigued yet?


Sergeant August Neumann, by Wayne Arthurson

Book Cover Dishonour in Camp 133

Last seen: Dishonour in Camp 133

About the book: Even thousands of miles from the front lines, locked into a Canadian prisoner-of-war camp at the base of the Canadian Rockies, death isn’t far away. For August Neumann, head of Camp Civil Security and decorated German war hero, this is the reality. Chef Schlipal has been found dead in Mess #3, a knife in his back.

Now it’s up to Neumann to find out what would drive the men of the camp, brothers-in-arms, to turn on each other. He’s learned, of course, that beneath the veneer of duty and honour, the camp is anything but civil.

When the trail of clues ends at the edge of the prison yard, Neumann must consider the crime bigger than the camp. Is someone getting out of the prison? If so, can he follow? If he can’t, he might have to live with the dishonour of Camp 133.

Why we're taking notice: If you've read Arthurson's The Red Chesterfield, Winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Crime Writing, the Alberta Publishing Award for Trade Fiction and High Plains Award Finalist, this series (this is Book 2) is worth checking out.


Candace Starr, by C.S. O’Cinneide

Book Cover Starr Sign

Last seen: Starr Sign

About the book: Candace Starr goes searching for her mother in the Detroit mob—but infiltrating her own crime family may be her deadliest assignment ever.

Candace Starr has fallen on hard times since she helped her friend, Detective Malone, with a murder case last year. These days, she trades on her dark celebrity as a former contract killer to keep the wolf from the door and her glass of Scotch whisky full. But when her teenage half-sister, Janet, shows up, Candace finds herself responsible for more than her nightly bar bill.

Candace and Janet’s mercurial mother has gone missing while visiting her estranged family of Detroit mobsters, and Candace needs to track her down to take the kid off her hands. But the vicious Scarpello clan is hiding far more than her mother’s whereabouts.

Witty, gritty, and full of cocky hard-edged flair, the second book in the Candace Starr series unearths the well-buried secrets of Candace’s mob family tree, laying bare the roots of her own identity along the way.

Why we're taking notice: A finalist for the 2022 Edgar Awards, Paperback Original Category!


Sebastian Synard, by Kevin Major

Book Cover Four For Fogo Island

Last seen: Four For Fogo Island

About the book: Murder in a quilt shop on scenic Fogo Island leads sardonic private eye Sebastian Synard from his quest for some R&R to a different kind of excursion altogether.

Four for Fogo Island finds Sebastian Synard on a May 24th weekend getaway with his new significant other, Mae. (As he says, “what a difference a Mae makes.”)

When Sebastian and Mae arrive at a fabric shop, they discover the owner in a back room, lying in a pool of blood, having been stabbed with a pair of antique quilting scissors. This propels the couple along a sequence of occasionally bizarre investigative paths to track down the killer.

Sebastian has more than murder to deal with. A family get-together involving his son and ex-wife (and her partner, Frederick, a police officer) goes awry as Frederick inserts himself into the investigation. Mae on occasion outsmarts Sebastian on the investigative trails, but our private eye is rarely without his trademark sense of humour.

Why we're taking notice: Governor General Award winner Kevin Major has published 17 books, for both young people and adults, and this latest mystery comes recommended by Angela Misri on CBC Radio's The Next Chapter.


Priscilla Tempest, by Ron Base and Prudence Emery

Book Cover Scandal at the Savoy

Last seen: Scandal at the Savoy (Coming in March)

About the book: The rich and famous are converging on the iconic Savoy Hotel in swinging ’60s London—including a famous Broadway producer with anger issues, a demanding Indian raja, and a gorgeous film star with certain kinky predilections. All is as it should be—until the murder of a showgirl threatens to scandalize the hotel.

The list of suspects includes Priscilla Tempest, the trouble-prone Canadian head of the Savoy press office. Clearing her name would be easy enough, if only she hadn’t spent the night of the murder with a certain beguiling Canadian prime minister.

Blackmailed by a Scotland Yard detective, wooed by a notorious gangster and hounded by the press, Priscilla must use wit and resourcefulness to survive the treacherous upper echelons of London society and find a killer.

Why we're taking notice: This is the thrilling sequel to Death at the Savoy, described by Publishers Weekly as “light, frothy…perfect escapist fare.”


Unnamed Narrator, by Candas Jane Dorsey

Book Cover What's the Matter With Mary Jane

Last seen: What's the Matter With Mary Jane: An Epitome Apartments Mystery

About the book: A wise-cracking, grammar-obsessed, pansexual amateur sleuth is thrust into the world of the uber-rich when her enigmatic, now-famous childhood friend breezes back into her life begging for help with a dangerous stalker

Our nameless postmodern amateur sleuth is still recovering from her first dangerous foray into detective work when her old friend Priscilla Jane Gill breezes back into her life and begs for help. Pris, now a famous travel writer, fears she’s being stalked again after a nearly fatal attack by a deranged fan a year earlier. In Pris’s dizzying world of wealth and privilege, nameless meets dreamy but sinister tech billionaire Nathan and his equally unnerving sidekick Chiles. Pris’s stalker is murdered outside her book launch, and the shadow of obsession continues to stalk Pris. With no one she can totally trust, nameless knows she’s not going to like the answer—but she delves into her old friend’s past, seeking the mastermind behind Pris’s troubles before it’s too late. Bunnywit does his level best to warn them, but no one else speaks Cat, so background peril transforms into foreground betrayal and murder.

In the second installation of the Epitome Apartments Mystery Series, our heroine walks a dangerous path in a world where money is no object and the stakes are higher, and more personal, than ever. 

Why we're taking notice: Because we discovered this series through Lindsay Hobbs' review where she describes Dorsey's work as following in the footsteps of those from the Golden Age of detective fiction, "(such as Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham) [who] were writing fiercely intelligent, psychologically interesting, and socially conscious books that were also hugely fun to read."


Lane Winslow, by Iona Whishaw

Book Cover To Track a Traitor

Last seen: To Track a Traitor (Coming in May)

About the book: It’s an early morning in May when Lane is pulled from a deep sleep by a concerning phone call from Scotland—her grandfather has had a heart attack. Lane hastily makes plans to fly overseas, and a dejected Inspector Darling prepares himself for a stint of bachelorhood. But before he can begin to dwell on it the Nelson Police learn that Ben Arden, a local cad, has gone out for a late-night boat ride and not returned, which immediately sets the town rumour mill churning.

In Scotland Lane finds her grandfather on the mend but her estranged sister Diana caught up in stressful—and mysterious—circumstances of her own. As Lane follows the thread leading from South Africa to Aberdeen to the War Office in London it becomes apparent that her sister is on the run, and that keeping secrets seems to be a Winslow family trait.

Back at the Nelson Police station a strange assemblage of clues begins to amass around the Arden case, stretching from the local printshop all the way back to the Great War. But progress is interrupted when the mayor himself issues a demand that Darling travel to England to tie up a decades-old mystery with local connections. True to form, upon Darling’s arrival in London he is quickly swept up in Lane’s mission, which threatens to endanger the entire family.

Why we're taking notice: Oh, do we ever love Lane, and the way that Whishaw's books just keep getting better and better. Always wonderful to have a new one to look forward to!

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