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The Dragonfly Lake List

A recommended reading list by the author of Eleven Huskies, the latest in the Dr. Bannerman Vet Mystery Series.

Book Cover Eleven Huskies

Eleven Huskies is on our July Summer Reading List, and we've got copies up for giveaway until the end of the month—along with every other title on the list.

Check out our Giveaways page for your chance to win right now.


My primary objective in writing these mysteries is simply to entertain. Frivolity and escape. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I do have some secondary objectives as well. One of them is to explore the perspective of a neurodivergent protagonist in a way that defies cliches and expectations. Another, germane to this reading list, is to showcase Manitoba and, specifically in Eleven Huskies, the glorious wilderness of the Canadian Shield. Only two of the books on the list are set in Manitoba, but the political boundaries are meaningless to loons, pines, and lakes. Dr. Peter Bannerman’s experiences at the fictional Dragonfly Lake in northern Manitoba could just have easily happened anywhere from the Yukon to Labrador.

This is Peter’s reading list, not mine, if you’ll allow me that conceit.

This is Peter’s reading list, not mine, if you’ll allow me that conceit. He has a deep-seated need to be well informed. He becomes anxious if he’s not always the most knowledgeable person in the room on any given subject he cares about. And fortunately, he reads with almost inhuman discipline and speed, so in most cases, he is in fact the most knowledgeable person in the room. As soon as the Dragonfly Lake trip was planned, Peter logged into his online library account and visited his favourite bookstores to find the eight titles (well, seven, one was a gift) that he needed to read before heading north.


Book Cover Fire Weather

Fire Weather, by John Vaillant

Peter couldn’t know how relevant this would become, but it’s impossible to live in Canada in the 2020s and not be aware that wildfires are a rapidly growing concern. The summer before had been smokey in Manitoba. Odds were that this summer would be as well. Direct confrontation with a fire was unlikely, but the title grabbed Peter’s attention. He read Fire Weather over two long evenings. Having read The Tiger, he knew that few are able to put you in the heart of the action like John Vaillant. You feel the heat. You feel the terror. You feel the bewilderment at the changing world. Storytelling and science merge seamlessly in this essential read.


Book Cover Beyond the Trees

Beyond the Trees, by Adam Shoalts

Peter fancies himself to be a decent wilderness canoeist. I fancy myself to be a decent wilderness canoeist. But both of us are feeble bumblers compared to Adam Shoalts. He is arguably Canada’s preeminent wilderness explorer today.  In Beyond the Trees he attempts a solo canoe journey right across the entire Canadian mainland Arctic, from Yukon to Hudson’s Bay, in a single season. 4000 kilometers. 4 billion mosquitoes. Endless portages. Endless bogs. An objectively insane plan. But what is most impressive is his sense of humour and fun amid extreme suffering. Masochist? Maybe. But very entertaining regardless. Peter was inspired and appalled in equal measure.


Book Cover Where Nests the Water Hen

Where Nests the Water Hen, by Gabrielle Roy

Beautiful and warm, Peter’s Manitoba fiction entry in the list is very different in tone than most of the others. He felt obliged to read it because it was the only major novel he could find that was set in northern Manitoba. He approached it with some trepidation as it was published in 1950. Purple prose was still common in the era, and he hated purple prose. He preferred spare, economical language. Where Nests the Water Hen was a pleasant surprise. Fluid and engaging, it drew him into the world of poor people trying to make their way through life in a small community deep in the wilderness. Roy’s treatment is marvelously sympathetic without a hint of condescension.


Book Cover Fatal Passage

Fatal Passage, by Ken McGoogan

This was Peter’s favourite book on the list. He finished it determined to tell anyone who would listen—and some who wouldn’t—about Dr. John Rae. Rae crisscrossed northern Canada in the mid-19th century, covering 1000s of kilometres on snowshoes. He was like Adam Shoalts, only even tougher and hardier, and without the safety tether of a satellite phone. What was most inspiring was his admiration for the Indigenous peoples of the North, and his willingness to learn from them. This attitude was exceedingly rare at the time. His willingness to tell the British Admiralty that the lost Franklin expedition had likely resorted to cannibalism also impressed Peter greatly as it was career suicide for Dr. Rae. “British officers do not eat one another” was the huffy reply. Even Dickens pilloried Rae for having suggested such a thing. Principles before personal gain. This resonated deeply with Peter.


Book Cover Moon of the Crusted Snow

Moon of the Crusted Snow, by Waubgeshig Rice

People had been recommending this book to Peter since it came out. His “to read” list was always too long though. But now was the right time. He would be visiting his old friend, Lawrence Littlebear, at the Dragonfly Lake First Nation. He loved the blend of traditional and modern ways in that community. The main characters in Moon of the Crusted Snow used the same blend to navigate their way through a growing crisis, with the traditional becoming more and more important as the modern became difficult, and then impossible, to access. Rice’s writing also brought the North alive for Peter. It reminded him of what he loved about the landscape, and it increased his anticipation for the coming trip.


Book Cover Never Cry Wolf

Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat

A bona fide classic. Peter had read this, and most of Mowat’s work, when he was a child. It seemed like a good opportunity to re-read it. On this second go round he felt a much deeper kinship with Mowat, who was clearly an odd person and an outsider with an idiosyncratic connection to the animal world. Set in the northernmost reaches of Manitoba, the story follows the author’s time as a Canadian Wildlife Service biologist studying the impact of wolves declining caribou herds in the late 1940s (coincidentally simultaneous with the wolf-less fictional events of Where Nests the Water Hen further south). His conclusion that the wolves were not to blame catalyzed a change in our understanding of wolves who were previously viewed as wanton killers. Mowat’s sense of humour and lively curiosity made this a joy to read.


Book Cover Prisoners of the North

Prisoners of the North, by Pierre Berton

Berton, who died in 2004, is rapidly fading from view. This is a shame, because nobody has the same eye for the quirky and off-beat stories from Canadian history. Nor the same sustained passion for the North. Prisoners of the North is his last book. It’s a collection of five portraits of individuals whose lives were entangled in interesting ways with the Arctic and Subarctic wilderness. Peter picked it up on a whim, figuring that this was the equivalent of five books in one and would quickly and efficiently broaden his knowledge base. He wasn’t prepared for how engaging a writer Berton is. These were no mere biographical sketches. These were full-blooded tales that underlined the maxim regarding the strangeness of truth compared to fiction. There is more Pierre Berton in Peter’s future.


Book Cover Field Study

Field Study, by Helen Humphreys

The slimmest of the eight books, and the only one not set in the wilderness, this was a gift from Laura, Peter’s wife. She insisted he read it. “You like plants and you like history,” she said. “You’ll love this.” And he did. Subtitled Meditations on a Year at the Herbarium, it’s about so much more than plants. In looking at the plants collected by Thoreau and Dickinson and others, Humphreys weaves together past and present, life and death, nature and man. Although written in prose, her credentials as a poet are obvious. And the illustrations are gorgeous. Peter found himself wanting to take up plant collecting on his trip to Dragonfly, but as it happened, he wouldn’t have the time.  


Book Cover Eleven Huskies

Learn more about Eleven Huskies:

Peter Bannerman, veterinarian and amateur detective, deserves a summer vacation. Peter and his family head to a remote fishing lodge in northern Manitoba for a canoeing trip with his champion sniffer dog, Pippin. But a series of incidents color their plans. The lodge’s sled team of huskies has been poisoned and, at the same time, a floatplane crashes into the lake, killing the pilot and both passengers. While Peter works to save the huskies, it is discovered that the plane crash wasn’t an accident. It was murder.

It’s been a hot and dry summer, and one morning the Bannerman family wakes up to find a forest fire spreading quickly. They manage to dodge the conflagration, making it back to the lodge before it becomes cut off from the outside world. Peter soon figures out that the murderer, who probably also poisoned the huskies, must be among the other guests or staff trapped with them at the lodge. The power fails. The now-enormous fire draws nearer. Can Peter discover the culprit in time?

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