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Fiction Women Sleuths

The Unlocking Season

A Joanne Kilbourn Mystery

by (author) Gail Bowen

ECW Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2020
Women Sleuths, Amateur Sleuth, Cozy, Family Life
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
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  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
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Arthur Ellis Award-winning author

Grand Master Award of Crime Writers of Canada (2018)

The “queen of Canadian crime fiction” (Winnipeg Free Press) returns with a new installment in the Joanne Kilbourn series that is perfect for readers of Louise Penny, Ruth Rendell, and Peter Robinson.

On a Saturday bright with harbingers of spring, Joanne Kilbourn-Shreve, her husband, Zack, and their family prepare to celebrate the season. Joanne’s life is full, and at 60, she has been given the chance to understand a part of her history that for years was shrouded in secrecy.

Living Skies is producing Sisters and Strangers, a six-part TV series about the tangled relationships between the families of Douglas Ellard, the father who raised Joanne, and Desmond Love, her biological father. Joanne is working on the script with Roy Brodnitz, a brilliant writer and friend. The project’s future seems assured, but before the script is completed, Brodnitz disappears while scouting locations in northern Saskatchewan. Hours later, he’s found — sweat-drenched, clawing at the ground, and muttering gibberish. He dies in a state of mortal terror. 

Heartsick and perplexed, Joanne resolves to learn what happened in the last hours of Roy’s life. What Joanne discovers threatens Brodnitz’s legacy, and the decision about whether or not to reveal the truth is hers to make. The Unlocking Season is another deeply satisfying and thought-provoking novel from one of Canada’s finest crime writers.


About the author

Gail Bowen’s bestselling mystery series featuring Joanne Kilbourn will number an even dozen titles with the publication of The Nesting Dolls in August 2010. The first six books in the series have appeared as made-for-television movies with world-wide distribution. Winner of both the Arthur Ellis Best Novel Award and the Derrick Murdoch Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Crime Writers of Canada, in 2008 Bowen was named ’Canada’s Best Mystery Novelist’ by Reader’s Digest. She was selected as oneof "The 100 Most Popular Contemporary Mystery Authors" for an upcoming Library Unlimited reference book.

Gail Bowen's profile page


  • Short-listed, Saskatchewan Book Award

Excerpt: The Unlocking Season: A Joanne Kilbourn Mystery (by (author) Gail Bowen)


Sisters and Strangers was about Douglas Ellard, the father who raised me, and his lifelong friend, the artist Desmond Love, who was my biological father. Telling their story fully and honestly mattered to me, and I had been working with the writer, Roy Brodnitz, on the script. At sixty, the chance to understand and accept a part of my life that until a year earlier had been shrouded in secrecy was a gift, and the chance to be involved in a process that meant stepping into a new world was seductive, but after a promising start, things fell apart.

I led Georgie into the living room. “The kitchen windows are open, and I’ve put out dishes of vinegar, so we’ll be able to breathe soon. I’ll let my family know you and I are talking.”

When I returned, Georgie was sitting in an easy chair by the window that overlooked the creek behind our house. Her scrubbed, blond good looks, fine, precise features and cleanly marked jawline suggested a woman with a sunny, uncomplicated view of life, but Georgie’s grey eyes were knowing, and her lips had a way of curling in private amusement at the vagaries of human behaviour. My grandmother would have said that Georgie Shepherd “was nobody’s fool,” and my grandmother would have been right.

Our forsythia had just bloomed. The bush’s gold, bell-shaped flowers were a welcome burst of colour in the grey late-winter palette, and Georgie had half turned to gaze at them. “That forsythia is glorious,” she said.

“A harbinger of spring,” I said. “And a good omen.”

“Let’s hope,” she said, “because there’s troubling news. You know that Roy flew up north with the production team to scout locations for Sisters and Strangers.”

“I talked to Roy yesterday,” I said. “They’d just arrived on the island at Emma Lake where Ernest Lindner had his studio. Roy was ecstatic. One hundred and eighteen acres of virgin forest and a log cabin constructed in 1935 — exactly what they need for the outdoor shots.”

Georgie winced, and when I saw the pain in her eyes, I sank into the chair across from hers. “Something’s happened,” I said.


Editorial Reviews


“Bowen creates fully rounded characters to serve her well-crafted plot. This long-running series shows no sign of losing steam.” — Publishers Weekly

“One of Bowen’s smartest novels yet.” — Globe and Mail

“Bowen engineers a couple of nifty puzzles and some equally sure-footed solutions.” — Toronto Star

“Gail Bowen’s fans will love The Unlocking Season.” — Winnipeg Free Press


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