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Fiction Historical

A Lethal Lesson

A Lane Winslow Mystery

by (author) Iona Whishaw

TouchWood Editions
Initial publish date
Apr 2021
Historical, Amateur Sleuth, Cozy, Women Sleuths
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2021
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price

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Shortlisted for the 2022 BC and Yukon Book Prizes' Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award
An Indigo Top 10 Best Mystery of 2021
A Globe and Mail bestseller
#1 Bestselling New Release in Canada

Lane Winslow trades crime solving for substitute teaching in the eighth installment of this mystery series that Kirkus Reviews calls “riveting”.

Back home in the Kootenays after her Arizona honeymoon, Lane offers her assistance when neither the outgoing teacher, Rose, nor her replacement, Wendy, show up at the local schoolhouse one blizzardy Monday in December. But when she finds the teachers' cottage ransacked with Rose unconscious and bleeding, and Wendy missing, Lane delivers Rose to the hospital in Nelson and turns the case over to her exasperated husband, Inspector Darling, and his capable colleagues, Sergeant Ames and Constable Terrell.

Never one to leave a post unmanned, Lane enlists as substitute teacher for the final two weeks before the Christmas holidays, during which time she discovers a threatening note in the teachers' desk and a revolver in the supply cupboard. But these clues only convolute the case further. Who has been tormenting these women, and where has Wendy gone?

Meanwhile, Darling finds the body of a hit-and-run victim in a snowbank miles outside of Nelson, the residents of King's Cove are preoccupied by the possibility of a new neighbour, and Sergeant Ames is as confused as ever by the inimitable Tina Van Eyck.

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 to find out more.

Iona Whishaw's profile page


  • Short-listed, BC and Yukon Book Prizes Booksellers Choice Award

Excerpt: A Lethal Lesson: A Lane Winslow Mystery (by (author) Iona Whishaw)


“Get out.” The driver’s voice was compacted with rage. The car was stopped in the middle of the road. Only the fan of light provided by the headlights made any inroads in the utter darkness. Any trace of that night’s half-moon was obliterated by the swirling snow. At near midnight, in these conditions, it was unlikely any traffic would be on the road.

“What?” The man was drunk. He couldn’t make out what was being said to him.

“Get out!” Shouting now, the driver leaned over, opened the door, and pushed hard at the man. Unable to help himself, the drunk man tumbled out onto the bank of snow that had piled up on the side of the road. He watched the car disappear around the corner toward Castlegar, the last red shred of its taillights disappearing behind the bend. He stood, bemused, and then turned and began to trudge back to town. In an unconscious imitation of driving, the man stumbled across the road to walk on the right-hand side. The river roared below him in the blackness. He shook his head as if to clear it, but the driving snow that blew onto his face under his hat countered his efforts to understand what was happening. He wondered suddenly where his car was. He tried pulling his hat off to see better, but that only covered him in snow and didn’t alleviate the darkness. It occurred to him that he’d left something at home, and he tried to remember what it was. Not the car. How would he have gotten this far without the car? In the same instant he remembered, the road was lit blindingly by the headlights of a car coming from behind him, heading toward Nelson. His spirit buoyed in this one illuminated moment, and everything made sense. He would get home, be welcomed. He put out an arm to stop the car. He wanted to turn to face it, but he felt dizzy. The engine revved, sudden and deafening; he could hear it behind him and frowned. The sensation of being thrown into the snowy air made him feel full of light, as if the angels had come. In the darkness of the next moment, he was not aware of landing. He did not hear the blunt, hard sound of breaking, nor the muffled scream from somewhere. He had no sensation of bouncing or rolling. He knew nothing of sliding like a broken doll and resting in the snow far below. He did not hear the roar of the car disappearing, or see the lights blink out. He, indeed, would never hear or see anything again.



Wednesday, December 3, 1947

Wendy Keeling was as happy as she could ever remember being in her mostly unhappy life. She had ushered the children outside after they had put their lunch things away, and she could hear them now, shrieking in the snow, releasing all that pent-up animal energy they had accumulated during the morning. She would try to get them all on to arithmetic in the afternoon. She would start with a puzzle they could tackle in pairs. She walked up and down the short rows to make sure all the crumbs and jam smudges were off the desks, checked inside to make sure no one had hidden a sandwich away, and then she looked at the clock. They had five minutes still before they had to come in and remove their piles of now no doubt soaking outer clothes.

Taking up a piece of chalk, she drew six glasses on the board and indicated with a line that the first three were filled. Then she went outside holding the school bell and rang it, calling, “It’s time, ladies and gentlemen!”

Under the cries of protest, she stood on the porch, her arms crossed in front of her, looking benignly implacable and saying nothing. Even after only a few days, they knew the routine. Line up in front of the stairs and be allowed in quickly. The door was kept closed to keep the heat in until they were all ready to come in at once.

“What are we doing this afternoon, miss?” asked Rafe, one of Angela Bertolli’s boys, turning to give a little shove to someone trying to usurp his first-place spot in line.

“Rafe!” Miss Keeling gave a warning note, and then smiled. “It’s a great afternoon for arithmetic. Okay, everyone present and correct?” Seeing that the jostling group contained the number of students she expected, thirteen, Miss Keeling swung open the door, and watched the muffled group clamber up the stairs and into the classroom. She turned and put her head in the door. “Coats and scarves up! In your desks by the time I turn around.”

She looked again at the now-quiet yard, with its trampled snow and two nascent snowmen, and was about to come in when she saw a red knitted scarf hanging on a branch of a short spruce tree at the south side of the school. Edith. Her granny had knitted it for her, Edith had told her. She was about to call the girl to come and take responsibility for her scarf, when she thought better of disrupting the complications of removing outer clothes and rubber boots, so she closed the door and went down the four stairs and stepped into the snow, wishing immediately she had her rubbers, and made for the scarf.

When she saw the black car, parked halfway down the hill, the clouds of white coming out of the exhaust, she frowned. The car was not moving, but the engine was running. Sunlight reflected off the front windscreen, showing only the snow and trees around it, making it seem, she thought whimsically, as if she could see into its mind. Who was in it? It was almost as if someone were watching her, or the school, or more worryingly, the students. But who? She didn’t recognize the car. She was going to wave, but then thought, Someone has come up the wrong road and is even now looking at a map. If that person was lost, she’d not be much use to them. She’d only come to the area a short time ago herself.

Even with the door closed, she could hear the banging and laughing of the children in the little kitchen room, boots being pulled off and hurled under the coat-rack bench, and she turned back to retrieve the scarf. When she looked down the road again, she saw that the car was slowly beginning to back away. Then, in some trick of the light, the windshield stopped reflecting the peaceful world it looked out on, and she could see, for the briefest moment, the shape of the head inside turned away to look out the back window, right arm over the seat, gloved left hand on the steering wheel, as the driver backed the car nonchalantly down the hill.

She lurched up the steps, not daring to look again, some atavistic superstition urging her to ignore what she had seen. It was a bad reflection, it was nothing, a lost stranger now pulling silently back to the main road. Do not look, it seemed to be saying, because looking will make it real. But competing with that desperate hope was the cold hard nub of the truth, deep in her gut. It had been too good to be true. Somehow, they had found her.



—From A Lethal Lesson

Editorial Reviews

A Lethal Lesson (#8)

An Indigo Top 10 Best Mystery of 2021

A Globe and Mail bestseller and #1 Bestselling New Release in Canada

"There are days when nothing suits a reader like a good old-fashioned classic cozy with a puzzle plot, a country setting and some nice slight characters. When that urge strikes, Iona Whishaw’s delightful B.C. series featuring Lane Winslow and, now, husband, Inspector Darling of the King’s Cove constabulary, are just the ticket. . . A really good book in a terrific series." —Globe and Mail

“Iona Whishaw’s writing is worthy of taking its place alongside the works of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. This deftly crafted and briskly paced murder mystery vividly evokes the atmosphere of a small community gripped by the sudden disappearance of two schoolteachers in the snows of a Canadian winter.” —Fiona Valpy, bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift

"Whishaw nicely captures the rhythms and dynamics of small-town life while maintaining suspense. Maisie Dobbs and Phryne Fisher fans will be pleased." —Publishers Weekly

"A winsome cozy set in the Kootenays in 1947 . . . it’s the perfect series for fans of Miss Fisher and Maisie Dobbs." —Zoomer Magazine

"Well plotted and laced with dry wit, Lane's adventures are entirely satisfying summer reading." —Shelf Awareness

"This series is truly a favorite of mine and always a delight . . . Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction/mystery, strong female leads (think Maisie Dobbs!), and mysteries that dive into not just the whodunit but the why? And really, anyone who just enjoys a good mystery." —Hidden Staircase

"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


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

"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

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