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Interviews, Recommendations, and More

8 Unconventional Detectives in Canadian Crime Fiction

A recommended reading list by the author of the new book Who By Fire

Book Cover Who By Fire

We've got Greg Rhyno's Who By Fire up for giveaway until the end of April

If you head over to our giveaways page, you'll find your chance to win—and be sure to check out everything else we've got on offer


Book Cover Dreadfulwater

Thumps DreadfulWater in DreadfulWater, by Thomas King

Thomas King is a renowned academic, celebrated raconteur, Member of the Order of Canada, and yet, he still finds time to crank out the occasional whodunnit. His series gumshoe, Thumps DreadfulWater, is a world-weary and whip-smart ex-cop who’s traded policing for photography, and who’s reluctantly drawn back into the world of criminal investigation. DreadfulWater is the last guy who wants to solve a murder case, but inevitably, the first guy to do it. Also, his cat Freeway is pretty adorable. 


Book Cover Bellevue Square

Jean Mason in Bellevue Square, by Michael Redhill

Michael Redhill’s Bellevue Square comes wrapped in accolades. It’s a national bestseller and winner of the coveted ScotiaBank Giller Prize. But what charmed me was not the poetic language or gritty descriptions of urban Canadiana; it was the Paul Auster meets Stephen King weirdness of the novel. Jean Mason, Bellevue Square’s protagonist, is not searching for a missing person or a murder weapon; she’s looking for herself — her doppelganger — who, according to a number of acquaintances, has been spotted in the wild of Toronto’s Kensington Market. But can the reader trust these unusual sightings? And what’s more, can the reader trust Jean Mason? 

Book Cover Still Mine

Clare O’Callaghan in Still Mine, by Amy Stuart

Being on the run from an abusive husband might seem like an odd time to get into the detective game, but that’s exactly what the enigmatic Clare O’Callaghan (or, according to her driver’s license, Clare O’Dey) does. After making an unusual bargain with the private investigator sent to track her down, Clare journeys to a bleak mining town to find another missing woman who strangely shares a number of Clare’s worst qualities. Amy Stuart’s amateur sleuth travels light, but she brings with her a baggage allowance worth of secrets.   


Book Cover Cobra Clutch

“Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead in Cobra Clutch, by A.J. Devlin 

“Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead is A.J. Devlin’s take on the hard-boiled detective tough guy. Ounstead is a bouncer, a retired wrestler, and—against his better instincts—an amateur investigator. He has none of the subtlety of a traditional sleuth—he’s not a smooth talker, and he’s more likely to bust down a door than pick a lock—but the series is all the more fun for it. Ounstead's muscle makes him a salty opponent, but his compassion for his family, friends, and even a kidnapped snake make him as sweet as his beverage of choice: the Dairy Queen banana milkshake. 


Book Cover Finding Edward

Cyril Rowntree in Finding Edward, by Sheila Edward

Sheila Murray’s weighty and beautiful Finding Edward is not a detective novel by any of the traditional metrics. It’s the story of Cyril Rowntree, a Jamaican international student in contemporary Toronto, grieving the loss of his mother, his adoptive grandfather, and his home. When he is shown a 1922 photograph of a young, biracial child, he becomes fascinated and begins researching the child’s fate. Whereas Michael Redhill’s Jean Mason searches Toronto for her own double in Bellevue Square, Rowntree instead searches the city for a kindred spirit, and in doing so, uncovers an often-overlooked history of Black experience in Canada.


Book Cover The Opportunists

Alana Shropshire in The Opportunist, by Elyse Friedman

Those still suffering from Succession-related withdrawal should rejoice. Elyse Friedman’s latest novel is every bit as twisty, funny, and nasty as the lauded HBO series. Perhaps moreso. Tasked by her spoiled, douchey brothers to suss out their wealthy dad’s hot-nurse-turned-fiancée, Alana Shropshire also manages to investigate an older, darker family secret. The end is a shocker, and Shropshire proves to be a surprisingly formidable player in a deceptively dangerous game.


Book Cover Cold

Georgia Walker in Cold, by Mariko Tamaki

Georgia Walker isn’t the only person trying to make sense of Todd Mayer’s death in Mariko Tamaki’s excellent YA crime novel Cold. Other inquiring minds include Detective Daniels (who dresses like a cop and smokes too many cigarettes), Detective Greevy (who dresses like a lawyer and hates Led Zeppelin), and the dead boy himself (who — as a ghost — haunts his own murder investigation). Nevertheless, fifteen-year-old Georgia is the real brains behind this heartbreaker of a mystery. Exploited by her self-absorbed mother, ostracized by her classmates,  and half-in love with her best friend, Georgia’s loneliness allows her to understand Todd Mayer in ways the other investigators (and maybe even Todd himself) cannot.


Book Cover Citizens of Light

Colleen Weagle in Citizens of Light, by Sam Shelstad 

I read Sam Shelstad’s debut novel in the Boston airport while my flight was delayed for seven hours. That said, Citizens of Light is by no means an “airport mystery.” Its naive heroine, Colleen Weagle, is a call-centre employee, unsuccessful spec script writer, and reindeer video game enthusiast who lives a life of routine humdrum with two crucial exceptions: she’s the survivor of a death-worship cult and her husband’s corpse was recently found facedown in a bog. Eventually, an unlikely bit of evidence motivates Weagle to travel to touristy Clifton Hills and seek out the surprising truth about her spouse’s death. Her hare-brained investigation made my lengthy tenure at Logan International breeze by. In a perfect world, Citizens of Light would be in every airport, and every flight would have a seven hour delay.


Book Cover Who By Fire

Learn more about Dame Polara and Who By Fire:

Haunted by a childhood of picking locks and tailing suspects with her private-eye dad, Dame Polara desperately wants to leave the mysteries behind and lead an average life with average ambitions: to preserve heritage buildings through her job at City Hall, to care for her father’s mounting health complications, and to one day raise a family of her own.

But when her landlord serves her an eviction notice, and Dame agrees to investigate his wife’s infidelity in exchange for keeping the apartment. A simple domestic case, or so Dame believes, until her investigation uncovers a serial arsonist targeting the very buildings she’s fighting to preserve.

When this new mystery reopens old wounds, Dame must use every trick her father taught her to discover the truth and protect those she loves—lest the dangers of the job catch up to her and burn her whole life to the ground.

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