2017 Arthur Ellis Award, Best First Novel — Winner
A dark and suspenseful noir thriller, set in the Yukon.
As winter closes in and the roads snow over in Dawson City, Yukon, newly arrived journalist Jo Silver investigates the dubious suicide of a local politician and quickly discovers that not everything in the sleepy tourist town is what it seems. Before long, law enforcement begins treating the death as a possible murder and Jo is the prime suspect.
Strange Things Done is a top-notch thriller — a tense and stylish crime novel that explores the double themes of trust and betrayal.
2017 Women in Film “From Our Dark Side" Contest — Winner • 2015 Unhanged Arthur Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel — Winner • 2014 Telegraph/Harvill Secker Crime Competition — Shortlisted • 2014 Southwest Writers Annual Novel Writing Contest — Silver Winner • 2014 Criminal Lines Crime-Writing Competition — Shortlisted • 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award — Longlisted
About the author
Elle Wild grew up in a dark, rambling farmhouse in the wilds of Canada where there was nothing to do but read Edgar Allan Poe and watch PBS mysteries. She is an award-winning short filmmaker and the former writer/host of the radio program Wide Awake on CBC Radio One. Her short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Magazine. Strange Things Done, Wild’s first novel, won the Arthur Ellis Award 2015 for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel and was shortlisted internationally. Wild lives on an island in the Salish Sea.
- Winner, Arthur Ellis Award, Best First Novel
- Winner, Unhanged Arthur Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel
- Long-listed, Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
- Short-listed, The Telegraph Harvill Secker Crime Competition
- Winner, SouthWest Writers Annual Novel Writing Contest
- Short-listed, Criminal Lines Crime-Writing Prize
Excerpt: Strange Things Done (by (author) Elle Wild)
The pattern of her demise became suddenly clear, as though a dark kaleidoscope had just been turned. Everything snapped into focus then: the sharpness of the stars, the bowed outlines of trees, the expression on his face.
A blast of arctic air hit her with such force that it made her gasp and take a step back, breaking a crisp skin of snow. He moved forward, her partner in the same terrible dance. The air between them was charged, and out of the corner of her vision she saw something flash, as though the intent written on his face had become a tangible, physical force. She turned to flee into the shadows of the forest, but he caught the sleeve of her parka, then grabbed her by the throat. Impossible to twist away, though she railed and shoved. He swung her hard and the kaleidoscope turned again—filling her with a bright shower of sparks and then blackness.
Gradually she heard a distant clamour and something being dragged; that something was her. But what really bothered her was the bone-aching cold.
She opened her eyes and found herself staring up at tangle of stars. She marvelled for a moment at the emerald hue of the sky. How did she get here? Where was she going? The stars looked jittery. Not quite right. She felt like some lost explorer, painfully scanning from the Great Bear to Polaris, as though mapping the night sky would help pinpoint her location. But the stars would not stay still and it hurt to look at them. She turned her head away and saw instead the jagged silhouette of trees flashing past in jerky stops and starts. Snow and ice scraped against her cheek.
She felt herself lifted into the air and seated on something. A fence, perhaps. For one teetery moment, she balanced there, her arms hung loosely around someone’s shoulders like a sleepy child. Somewhere below her, the roaring grew louder. She was dimly aware of a tilting feeling, the needling scent of pine, and that she was slipping backwards. She lifted her head and their eyes met, a fleeting exchange filled with mutual surprise, and she remembered everything.
She tumbled backwards, kicking and clawing at the emptiness as she fell. Her panicked hands reached out to the swirling mass of northern lights above her, an undulating pattern that formed a last wordless message while the river below rushed up to meet her.
The Girl on the Train meets Robert Service.
The title is perfect, the characters fully developed, the plot well-paced and gripping, but this is above all a novel about setting. And what a setting it is. Dawson City, Yukon, as the tourists flee and the long, dark, lonely winter settles in. The airport and roads close, the winds blow, and the snow piles up, trapping those who remain in town, including a journalist haunted by a tragic mistake and so determined not to make it again that events begin repeating themselves. This is the Dawson City of relentless gamblers, heavy drinkers, tattooed bar girls, ruthless miners, and people who’ve reached the end of the road and find there is nowhere left to go. The perfect setting for a novel about conflicted people and dark ambition.
Vicki Delany, author of the Constable Molly Smith series
[A]n entertaining story that captures much of the surrealism of the North and the colorful characters drawn to it.
It's easy to see why this is an award winner. It's a well-spun thriller, set in a closed community, with the cold, snowy weather bringing in an extra element of menace.
What a wonderful dark, quirky, and complex debut novel this is. Canada’s north was never more sinister. Jo Silver is a character who needs more than one book.
Ian Hamilton, author of the internationally bestselling Ava Lee series
[A] highly readable, slick and professionally executed thriller.
A remote Canadian community hunkering down for a grim, lonely winter is the perfect setting for this atmospheric crime novel.
Elle Wild’s Strange Things Done is a boisterous tale of small town eccentrics, dark secrets, and strange things done in the bush, all delivered in crisp, expert prose. Wild’s suspenseful tale of murder and mayhem in the Yukon delivers on its promise of noir thrills and chills.
Gail Anderson-Dargatz, author of The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees
Strange Things Done"There are strange things done in the midnight sun
by the men who moil for gold…"
Many (many) years ago, my evil elder cousin tried to frighten the wits out of me with a midnight rendition of The Cremation of Sam McGee, the Robert Service poem that begins with those memorable lines. I was suitably terrified…and I loved every minute of it. Life and death in the Yukon captured my imagination then, as it does now. So it's no surprise that I could hardly wait to get my hands on Strange Things Done, the debut novel by Canadian author, Elle Wild.
Winter in Dawson City, Yukon: the river freezes, the airport shuts down, roads close, and for the intrepid few year-round residents, survival means outsmarting the bitter, killing cold. Journalist Josephine (Jo) Silver hopes to leave her troubled past behind when she signs on as the new editor of the Dawson Daily. Instead, she uncovers a possible murder and soon finds herself the prime suspect. In a town where things (and people) are seldom what they seem, Jo must question everything and learn to trust her instincts if she hopes to uncover the truth.
Elle Wild's love of the north shines as she brings Dawson City vividly to life, peopling the iconic town with memorable, well-developed characters. Jo Silver may not be instantly likeable, but she really grew on me as she struggled to reconcile her past while making a place for herself in Dawson. I was fascinated by Sally, the bad-girl roommate, who does whatever it takes to get by. RCMP Officer Johnny Caribou is quietly believable as a cop, but even better were the glimpses of his off-duty persona and his own difficult past. Ms. Wild delivers a satisfyingly dark and suspenseful mystery with enough chills to rival the Yukon winter. I was glad to see plenty of scope for continuing the story – here's hoping a Jo Silver series is in the works.
Strange Things Done rates a solid 5 stars and joins my favourites of 2016 on the keeper shelf.