Wedding bells, a grisly murder, and a defecting Russian spy bring drama to King’s Cove in the newest Lane Winslow mystery, a series that the Globe and Mail calls “terrific.”
A wedding is on the horizon for Lane Winslow and Inspector Darling. As one of the few Russian speakers in her community, Lane is obliged to act as translator and hostess for Countess Orlova, an elderly Russian woman who has tracked her missing brother to the Nelson area. Nelson PD investigates, but then the murder of a lone hunter in the hills above King’s Cove takes top priority.
Darling works the case with a Constable Oxley—a newcomer to the area, assigned in Constable Ames’ temporary absence—and a British agent contacts Lane to warn her to be on the lookout for a fleeing Russian defector. Bound by the Wartime Secrets Act, Lane is conflicted about keeping the information from Darling, especially when it begins to put a strain on their relationship.
Fans of Maisie Dobbs and the Kopp Sisters will delight in this rousing adventure of intrigue and espionage.
About the author
Iona Whishaw was born in British Columbia. After living her early years in the Kootenays, she spent her formative years living and learning in Mexico, Nicaragua, and the US. She travelled extensively for pleasure and education before settling in the Vancouver area. Throughout her roles as youth worker, social worker, teacher, and award-winning high school principal, her love of writing remained consistent, and compelled her to obtain her master’s in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. Iona has published short fiction, poetry, poetry translation, and one children’s book, Henry and the Cow Problem. A Killer in King’s Cove was her first adult novel. Her heroine, Lane Winslow, was inspired by Iona’s mother who, like her father before her, was a wartime spy. Visit ionawhishaw.com to find out more.
Excerpt: A Deceptive Devotion: A Lane Winslow Mystery (by (author) Iona Whishaw)
The hunter stopped and stared at the thing in front of him, so familiar, but so out of place. Puzzled, he looked toward the whispering forest and at the meadow, just visible under a golden blanket of sun on the other side of a shadowed gully. He could hear the creek below him. He strained his ears, alert now. His best buddy had operated one of these in Sicily. Why was it here? He scanned the forest in front of him again as if it might yield an answer and then reached for his rifle and dismounted, letting the reins drop. He propped the rifle against the rock and knelt down to see better. He only looked up when his horse whinnied and skittered sideways.
“Don’t turn around.”
The voice, sudden, surprising, utterly unlikely, made him want to laugh.
He felt only shock, not pain, as his head was yanked backwards by his hair. He could hear the slide of the gun along the rock as it toppled. In an eternity of time, he wondered at how his hat had come off, at why it didn’t hurt to have your hair pulled this way. His eyes wide, head held back at an impossible angle, he saw the sudden glimpse of heaven and then pitched forward, surprised by the warm, draining finality of death.
The dacha garden, slightly unkempt, was a lush emerald green of grass bordered by the wildflowers that the deputy director liked to grow: yellow buttercups, blue cornflower, nodding chamomile. The air was the very scent of summer, Stanimir Aptekar thought. He was so strongly assailed by a memory of his childhood in his garden at home near Saint Petersburg that he was momentarily in its complete possession. He was running joyfully through the trees to the river, his brother Stepan in full pursuit. He pulled himself back to the present with some effort, drinking the vodka remaining in his glass to anchor himself.
The four men sat in white wicker chairs around a small table under the shade of an ancient and spreading apple tree. Its living branches were filled with tiny green apples; its dead branches untrimmed, provided a suggestion of decay. The men leaned back, all of them smoking. The vodka bottle was depleted to below the halfway mark, the plate of sausage and loaf of bread nearly spent. Despite the languid comforts suggested by this scene, there was a sense of urgency about the meeting.
“It has been going well,” Ivanov said. “We have people in place in Britain and, as you know, some important defections. It is excellent that we had the foresight to begin this process before the end of the war. We are in a consolidating phase, yes? Koba is pleased that we are finally getting some traction. But the next moves are critical. Our ability to build a nuclear capacity depends on what happens now. If we are exposed, it will mean critical delays. And he will not stomach delays.”
There was a dark obviousness to the implications of Stalin’s impatience. Ivanov, the assistant deputy director of the MGB, the Ministry of State Security, leaned back in his chair, looking at his comrades as if challenging them for their potential failures.
“We could have been saved some of this extra work if we’d been fast enough when the Americans and British were scooping up physicists from Germany.”
Ivanov reached forward to put his cigarette in the ashtray on the table, and then thought better of it and flicked it into the bushes instead. It was his dacha after all.
He had a high-pitched, snivelling voice that irritated Stanimir Aptekar.
Aptekar leaned back. The other three seemed to move imperceptibly forward. He was aware of the deep blue of the sky against the green of the tree that shaded them. So much beauty, he thought.
“In Canada, we are operating out of the embassy in Ottawa. We have people in the very centre. I have their names in my dossier. I have also put in place a failsafe plan. Should something go wrong, it will take little time to assemble a back-up group. This I keep in my head.” Aptekar tapped the side of his head with his long index finger.
“Is that wise? If something should, God forbid, happen to you?”
“With any luck, God is forbidding. Comrades, these are new and delicate times. Here, among ourselves, in this trusted circle, I recommend caution to everyone.”
He thought with a deep well of sadness of Stepan, a hero of the war, picked up one afternoon from his apartment where he celebrated the birthday of his wife with his daughter and her two small children. No one had seen him again, not until the state presented a red box with a hero’s award from the People to his grieving widow. She had shown it to him, wordlessly, her expression devoid forevermore of the humour and intelligence that had once animated it. What had his brother done? Whom had he offended? There would never be an answer. Aptekar had gazed at the silver medal, a momentary fantasy that his brother and all his life had been physically compressed into this metal disk, the image of Stalin stamped forever on his remains.
He looked at the smiling faces of his comrades. Masha Ivanova came out of the house with sushki and tea. No circle could be trusted. Certainly not this one.
“So, Comrade Aptekar.” Ivanov, now Deputy Director, interrupted his walk back and forth across the room, his brown boots gleaming in the sunlight that poured in the east window of the Kremlin office Aptekar had been called to. “Tea?”
“Thank you.” Such sinister courtesy, Stanimir Aptekar thought. “Congratulations, Deputy Director Comrade Ivanov, on your promotion.”
That meeting in the Ivanov’s sunny garden two years before seemed a lifetime ago.
A samovar stood on a long table pushed against the wall. The commander acknowledged this compliment with a nod and then lifted his hand; a soldier at attention by the door clicked his heels quietly and began to pour tea into two glasses waiting on a tray.
Dismissed, the soldier saluted and withdrew, closing the door quietly. He will be right outside, Aptekar thought wearily.
“You have done great service over a long career, comrade.”
“You are kind to say so,” Aptekar said.
“Your dossier reads like an adventure book for schoolboys. Such exploits! They don’t make spies like you anymore.”
The Deputy Director lifted a manila folder, which Aptekar did not doubt was a prop, like everything else in the room. He knew this strategy well. He had employed it many times over the past fifty years—goodness, was it fifty years he had worked for intelligence, first for Mother Russia, and now for the Soviet Empire? He inclined his head, his hand partially on his glass of tea. He would drink when Ivanov did.
“Berlin recently, I think?” Ivanov sat down and was smiling benignly at his guest. “Such a messy arrangement! We are delaying the inevitable, I think. The West is delaying the inevitable.”
“It is indeed. East Germany will be the envy of the West, Deputy Director Comrade Ivanov.”
“We should never have conceded any part of Berlin. You agree, I think?”
“Yes, comrade. Certainly.”
Ivanov dropped a lump of sugar into his glass. “I’m glad you agree. Westerners are pouring in and out of there with ever-increasing zeal, as if they suspected that Berlin might become a problem. As if their increased presence in the city was a precaution of some sort. And we are letting them traipse across our sectors unhindered!” Ivanov momentarily lost his composed demeanour.
A cool head was required in this moment. Aptekar focused all his attention on appearing interested, while his mind sorted through two piles: what might be coming next, and what he might be able to do about it. His escape to the West was planned, everything in place. No one knew except the British director, who had arranged to have him met at the border. This ceremony, or whatever it was, here with Ivanov, represented his last feigned look of earnest committed to the aspirations of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
“What we are wondering, Comrade Aptekar, is why so suddenly? We are hoping, because you had your ear to the ground in Berlin as recently as June 20, you might be able to provide insight.”
June 20. The day he met with Lane Winslow. He had been assigned to bring her across, but he had seen immediately that she had no appetite for double agency, or indeed, any sort of espionage. The outcome of the fateful evening had been very different from what he had intended, and yet . . . he had made that sudden decision. Now it seemed that history, so out of his or anyone’s control, shone a light on that moment at dinner when he had said, surprising even himself, that he might like to retire in the West. Why had he done it? Was it a sentimental attachment to the past, to the years he had worked with her father when Russia and Britain were on the same side of things?
He reasoned that they had not discovered what he had said specifically, but the increased activity in Berlin made them question why he had failed to bring the British agent over and what he might have said to her about their plans for Berlin. There was something in this man’s voice that made his heart sink. He knew that his autonomy was at an end. Even this handsome talk of his heroism would not protect him now, any more than it had his brother, Stepan.
“I do not believe the West is any more zealous than it was before. When I was there, the traffic on the corridor into Berlin, both by road and rail, was extremely heavy. I can assure you, the West has been suspicious and anxious to keep its presence sturdy from the beginning. They bargained for half of Berlin, and they intend to keep it, no matter what happens.”
Ivanov shrugged in agreement. “I expect you are right. There are those, however, who take a more sinister view. I do not say I do, but others. They have concluded that there has been a leak, that our intentions with regard to Berlin, and even our plans to build networks in the West were passed on to a British agent. Of course, the world is full of paranoia. Everyone makes much too much of the smallest things. I expect a careless word, a stolen dossier, something for which our agent would not have been culpable.” Ivanov smiled at Aptekar. “But comrade, I am forgetting myself! This is not why you were invited here! The People, in recognition of your long and storied service to the country, are at last going to allow you to retire! What are you now, nearly seventy? You are legendary, inspirational! You have a home in the countryside near Leningrad, do you not?”
Aptekar smiled as well. “I do, Deputy Director. A nice little place with a small garden.” Why had he talked about plans to build a new network in the West? Aptekar searched his mind to remember who should know about these plans. Ivanov had not been included in the final plans made after that summer meeting, but here he was talking about it as if he were talking about the expansion of the Kremlin parking lot. Perhaps, since his promotion, he’d been brought into the need-to-know circle. Whom had Ivanov knocked out for that promotion? Almost with resignation, Aptekar, listening to that high-pitched voice he disliked so much, and knew he would be next.
“Ah! Then you shall garden! How enviable. How little time one has to be close to the earth, and yet such a life is quintessentially Russian, do you not agree?”
“Very much so,” said Aptekar. “I expect it is the reason that we call her our ‘motherland,’ unlike our recent enemies with their ‘fatherland.’ I shall look forward to returning to her bosom.”
“And so, Comrade Aptekar, today has a special significance.” Ivanov stood and went to the sideboard where a red, satin-covered box waited. The door to the room opened, and a man in a dark serge suit and holding a camera came in, as did the soldier who had been waiting outside the room. “Comrade, please.” Ivanov signalled with a little flick of his hand that Aptekar was to stand and approach him.
“Comrade Stanimir Aptekar, it gives me great pleasure to present you with the Red Banner medal for service to the Motherland and the defence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” Ivanov opened the box, turning it slightly toward the soldier and cameraman, as if they were a large audience, and then removed the medal and pinned it on the lapel of Aptekar’s jacket. He reached for Aptekar’s hand and shook it vigorously, turning them both toward the camera and smiling broadly. The flash emitted only a soft “pfft,” as though downplaying the occasion taking place.
When Aptekar had been escorted out into the hall, Ivanov waited to hear the footsteps recede and then went to the telephone on his desk. He tapped his fingers impatiently on the desk. The man on the other end had been told to pick up on the first ring, but it rang three times before Ivanov heard “Da?”
“Now. Have him followed. He has the name of every potential agent in our outpost in Ottawa in his head. Do not kill him, and do not let him disappear. We will pick him up soon. Do you understand?”
Aptekar stood on the embankment of the Moscow River, watching a barge move slowly south. He had removed his medal and slipped it into his pocket. On the whole, he thought, I am alive. My brother had to be executed before he got his hero’s medal. There would be no cottage in Sussex, that was certain. It had been something he’d begun to envision for himself, almost as if it had been a real possibility. Someone had found out and was going to make sure it never happened. Lane Winslow would have told her people that she was bringing him over, but how would someone here in Moscow have found it out? He doubted there would even be his own little house outside Leningrad. He heard the car pull up and stop on the street behind him, but he did not turn. It would not be taking him to the western border in Yugoslavia, where he was supposed to be by the end of the week.
—From A Deceptive Devotion
A Deceptive Devotion (#6)
"A nostalgic look at postwar Canada melds with a riveting tale of old and new Russia as its deeply nuanced characters lurch from one dangerous situation to the next." —Kirkus Reviews
"Another fantastic entry in the unique and compelling Lane Winslow series! Filled with intrigue, deception, twisted loyalties, and a touch of romance, readers will stand up and cheer." —Anna Lee Huber, author of the Lady Darby Mysteries and the Verity Kent Mysteries
"Iona Whishaw has again raised the bar . . . This is seriously good storytelling that continues to earn its place among the finest mystery writing in Canada." —Don Graves, Canadian Mystery Reviews
"Whishaw spins an engrossing tale of murder, Russian assassins, British spies and local Canadian constabulary while deftly braiding the many story threads into a twisty plot in A Deceptive Devotion." —Shelf Awareness
"My enthusiasm was high while reading A Deceptive Devotion. . . . I genuinely love the characters, their banter, how comfortable I am with them while reading. I of course look forward to spending more time with Lane, Darling and (now Sergeant) Ames." —Literary Hoarders blog
"I love [Lane Winslow] because she is a modern woman ahead of her day." —Wei Chen, host, CBC Ontario Morning
"Whishaw knows the land, the language, and the people. She gives readers many interesting characters—Countess Orlova and Aptekar are two of the best. The plot lines play out from the late 1800s to 1947 in about 150 scenes that jump from King’s Cove and nearby Nelson to Moscow, London, Vladivostok, Vancouver, Ottawa, and places in between. But all the threads come together with considerable surprises and twists. Fans of Whishaw and Winslow will enjoy this 6th in the Lane Winslow Mysteries." —Historical Novel Society
"The Lane Winslow books are in the cozy category, but they are more in the vein of Louise Penny: there’s a darkness around them and events from the past still have a tight hold on Lane and Darling, no matter how much they try to move forward. This is a compelling series that combines a cozy setting, spy intrigue storylines, and police procedural elements—not an easy task, but one that Whishaw pulls off." —Reviewing the Evidence blog
Praise for the Lane Winslow Mysteries
A Match Made for Murder (#7) is winner of the 2021 Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award
"The ‘find of the year’, Iona Whishaw’s Lane Winslow series is a real treat. Set after WWII, Lane has left England for Canada . . . settling in the small village of King’s Cove. With a quaint cast of characters and the feel of Louise Penny’s Three Pines, the independence and quick wit of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher and the intelligence of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs, this mystery series has it all!" —Murder by the Book, Texas
"Relentlessly exciting from start to finish." —Kirkus Reviews
"Whishaw deftly intertwines plot and psychology, giving readers insight not only into Lane's crime-solving strategies, but the perspectives and lives of her neighbors. The series also follows Lane's inner journey, from complicated family history to postwar trauma to the beginning of new love. Well plotted and laced with dry wit, Lane's adventures are entirely satisfying summer reading." —Shelf Awareness
"Iona Whishaw is a writer to watch." —Globe and Mail
"There’s no question you should read it—it’s excellent." —Toronto Star
“Iona Whishaw’s writing is worthy of taking its place alongside the works of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. . . deftly crafted and briskly paced.” —Fiona Valpy, author of The Dressmaker’s Gift
"Another fantastic entry in the unique and compelling Lane Winslow series!" —Anna Lee Huber, author of the Lady Darby Mysteries
“I absolutely love the modern sensibility of these novels, of their feminism, sense of justice, their anti-racism, their progressiveness, which somehow never seems out of place in a tiny BC hamlet in 1948. . . But it’s never preachy or pedantic, and Whishaw continues to use her murder mysteries to explore the limitations on women’s lives and freedom that were contemporary to the period, and which are not yet so far away in the rear view mirror.” —Kerry Clare, author of Mitzi Bytes and Waiting for a Star to Fall
"Complex, suspenseful, and deeply felt, this is a smart series for the ages." —Francine Mathews, author of the Nantucket Mysteries
"Exquisitely written, psychologically deft." —Linda Svendsen, author of Sussex Drive
"Iona Whishaw has again raised the bar . . . This is seriously good storytelling." —Don Graves, Canadian Mystery Reviews
"In the vein of Louise Penny . . . a compelling series that combines a cozy setting, spy intrigue storylines, and police procedural elements—not an easy task, but one that Whishaw pulls off." —Reviewing the Evidence
"The setting is fresh and the cast endearing." —CrimeReads
"An enthralling mystery." —Historical Novel Society
"This series . . . continues to get better and better." —Reviewing the Evidence
"A simply riveting read by a master of the genre." —Wisconsin Bookwatch
"A series that’s guaranteed to please." —Mercer Island Books, Washington
"Full of history, mystery, and a glorious BC setting . . . a wonderful series." —Sleuth of Baker Street, Ontario
Other titles by Iona Whishaw
Lightning Strikes the Silence
A Lane Winslow Mystery
To Track a Traitor
A Lane Winslow Mystery
Framed in Fire
A Lane Winslow Mystery
A Lethal Lesson
A Lane Winslow Mystery
A Killer in King’s Cove
A Match Made for Murder
A Lane Winslow Mystery
A Sorrowful Sanctuary
A Lane Winslow Mystery
It Begins in Betrayal
A Lane Winslow Mystery
An Old, Cold Grave
A Lane Winslow Mystery
Death in a Darkening Mist
A Lane Winslow Mystery