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Fiction Women Sleuths

Wreck Bay

An Amanda Doucette Mystery

by (author) Barbara Fradkin

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2023
Women Sleuths, Suspense, Amateur Sleuth
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2023
    List Price

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Amanda Doucette pursues the connection between a reclusive artist and the wealthy surfer who turned up dead on a remote island in Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim in a wilderness-infused mystery perfect for fans of Jane Harper or Louise Penny.

While exploring the rugged landscape of Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim, Amanda Doucette is drawn to a reclusive old artist known only as Luke, who lives off the grid on a remote island. His vivid paintings hint at a traumatic secret from his past that brings to mind her own struggles with PTSD, and she begins to bond with him.

But when the body of a surfer washes up on the beach, Luke flees deep into the interior. What is the connection between Luke and the victim, and what does it have to do with Vietnam and a hippie commune from fifty years ago? Fearing Luke might do something desperate, Amanda searches for answers and races to find him before the police or the victim’s family get to him first.

About the author

Barbara Fradkin was born in Montreal and attended McGill, the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa, where she obtained her PhD in psychology. Her work as a child psychologist has provided ample inspiration and insight for plotting murders, and she recently left full-time practice in order to be able to devote more time to writing. Barbara has an affinity for the dark side, and her compelling short stories haunt several anthologies and magazines, including Storyteller, Iced (Insomniac Press, 2001), and the Ladies Killing Circle anthologies, including Fit to Die, Bone Dance and When Boomers Go Bad, published by RendezVous Press. Her detective series features the exasperating, infuriating Ottawa Inspector Michael Green, whose love of the hunt often interferes with family, friends and police protocol. The series includes Do or Die (2000), Once Upon a Time (2002), Mist Walker (2003), and Fifth Son (Fall 2004). Once Upon a Time was nominated for Best Novel at the Arthur Ellis Awards, Canada’s top crime writing awards, and her latest title, Fifth Son won this prestigious award in 2005. The fifth in the series, Honour Among Men, (2006), repeated the honour, the only time that consecutive novels by the same author have won the award. The sixth and seventh novels, Dream Chasers and This Thing of Darkness, followed in 2007 and 2009.

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Excerpt: Wreck Bay: An Amanda Doucette Mystery (by (author) Barbara Fradkin)

Times Colonist, September 19, 1971
Wreck Bay Fire Claims One Life
A fire in a temporary dwelling on Long Beach turned deadly yesterday when the body of a young mother was discovered in the smoking ruins of her beach home. Patricia Decker, 19, lived in the Long Beach community with her six-month-old son and the baby’s father, neither of whom was home at the time of the fire. Police are currently searching for a neighbour who has not been seen since and who may have information relevant to the case.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but the commune dwellings are notoriously unsafe, and fires from candles and open firepits are common. This hazard has been a concern to local officials for years, and with the creation of the national park, efforts are underway to move residents to safer housing inland.
Chapter One
“I think that’s a crazy idea.”
Amanda pulled back in annoyance. In true cop fashion, Chris had maintained a poker face throughout her entire explanation, without betraying any reaction until she’d asked him what he thought.
“What do you mean, ‘crazy’?” she demanded.
“I mean you know nothing about the West Coast.”
“Since when has that stopped me from doing anything?”
He smiled and leaned over to draw her closer, but she withdrew to the other end of the couch, where she snuggled Kaylee instead. The dog stretched sleepily and thumped her tail. “I’m serious, Chris. I’ve been giving my next tour a lot of thought, and this is a great idea.” Watching him slowly shake his head, her anger flared. “You’ve got to stop going all protective cop on me. I’ve been in more dangerous situations than this and dealt with far more dangerous men.”
“It’s not just the men,” he said. “It’s the isolation in unfamiliar territory. You don’t know the ocean, the tides, the sudden storms. Not to mention the cougars and bears and wolves.”
“I’m not going to be alone,” she shot back. “I’ll have at least one local tour guide, probably two, and a counsellor from the addictions centre.”
He winced. To his credit, he tried to hide it, but in the shadows of dusk, his tightened lips were enough.
“It is the men,” she said. “I could take any other group on an expedition out to the Pacific Rim and you’d be fine with it, but because it’s men with an addiction history, you’re all freaked out.”
With a sigh, he unfolded his tall, lanky frame from the sofa and went to fetch the bottle of wine that sat on the table amid the remains of their dinner. He paused to glance out the picture window of their bungalow at the glossy black of Deer Lake. Pinpoints of golden light from other homes flickered against the water, and in the quiet, a distant motorboat droned.
She held up her wineglass for a top up, reluctantly acknowledging that he couldn’t stop himself from worrying. Being a police officer meant he had to respond to people in peril, whether from criminals, accidents, or their own stupidity. He saw dangers where others did not.
She softened. “I don’t want you to worry, honey. I’ve had several preliminary conversations with the executive director of the addictions umbrella organization in Victoria, and she’s all for the idea. She told me she’s already talked to a counsellor who’s keen. A man who grew up on Vancouver Island. The ocean, the islands, and the forests were his playground as a kid, and he’s eager to go. And we’re not talking about active addicts here, or dealers —”
“But —”
“These are guys who’ve gone through the programs and are staying clean. Yeah, some of them have done time for petty theft or other minor things, but now they’re burned out, past their prime, and just trying to rebuild the lives they messed up. I told the ED that I wanted guys who’d burned their bridges with their families and need some way to reconnect. To find some hope.”
“And they’re going to find this paddling around the islands and hiking through rainforests?”
She gritted her teeth at the hint of condescension. “No, they’re going to find it by working together and sharing challenges. I don’t need your permission to do this, you know. But I’d like it if you cared — at least a bit — about what I’m trying to do.”
He sipped his wine and twirled his glass. “It’s noble. Just a bit …”
He grinned. “I know the guys you’re talking about. We see them all the time, pick them up, put them in the drunk tank, release them in the morning to do it all over again. They’re not bad people. They just don’t know what else to do.”
“But these guys do want to do something else! It’s a requirement for the trip. That, and the fact they have an estranged adult son. Taking them out into the wilderness and forcing them to do things together, I hope it will help them both.”
“This woman from the addictions centre …”
“Bonnie Pamiuq.”
“She’s going to vet them carefully? No violent criminal history, no mental health issues?”
She nodded. “No serious mental health issues. No one’s going to be squeaky clean, otherwise they wouldn’t be in this situation.”
“What does Matthew think? Have you discussed it with him yet?”
She sensed him wavering and slid back over toward him. She felt the soft caress of his sweater against her cheek and breathed in the musty scent of wool. How she loved this man! They had survived the entire pandemic in isolation together in this remote corner of the country, and she had found a peace she’d never expected. Never before had she gone months without being on the move, always on to the next project. To the next crisis demanding her help.
Only as the days grew longer and the first buds of spring began to emerge had she felt the first faint stirrings of discontent. Not with Chris, but with herself. She’d spent her life on the front lines, helping those in need in struggling corners of the world, and she felt restless to find that purpose again.
She twined her fingers through his as she considered how to answer him. Matthew Goderich was her oldest, dearest friend. They’d met when she was an aid worker in Cambodia and he a war correspondent covering a regional conflict. When she’d barely escaped from Nigeria after a brutal attack, he had covered every inch of her harrowing journey across unfamiliar, inhospitable land. When she’d fled back to Canada to recover, unable to face another overseas post, and had instead taken up a charitable crusade closer to home, Matthew had returned home to Canada to run it with her. He was her right-hand man and a master of logistics, finances, and technology. He believed in her cause. More, he believed in her. He knew her deepest fears and demons, as well as her propensity for finding trouble, and he was going to hate this idea as much as Chris did.
“I wanted to tell you first,” she replied finally. “I told him only that the next trip would be this summer on Vancouver Island. I’ll probably tell him when we’re standing outside the office of the treatment centre.” She chewed her lip and steeled herself to deliver the next news. “I’ve booked myself and Kaylee on a flight to Victoria in three weeks.”
He recoiled. “Kaylee! Do you have to take her? Poor girl, in the hold for hours!”
“She’s a service dog. She’ll be on the plane with me. And I’ve booked myself on business class.”
Kaylee had raised her head at the mention of her name and was looking at them with concern. When Amanda called her over to join the snuggle, Chris leaned across to scratch her ears. “This place will be so empty with you both gone.”
“I know. But I need her. I’m much better, but I’m not a hundred percent.” Probably never will be, she added to herself. But that was something she didn’t dare tell him. He might never let her out of his sight.

Editorial Reviews

Fradkin, a retired psychologist, creates well-drawn, complex characters, and she knows how to build tension and drama that hold readers to the end.

Publishers Weekly, starred review for Fire in the Stars (#1)

Fradkin’s descriptive writing maintains the story’s atmosphere of isolation and suspicion.

The British Columbia Review

The wild west coast of Vancouver Island has frequently entertained a clash of cultures, which is brought to the fore in Barbara Fradkin’s latest Amanda Doucette crime solver, Wreck Bay. Complex and intriguing, peppered with eccentric characters, off-the-grid lifestyles, and the resurfacing of deeply buried family histories, the chase is on in a wilderness tale that never lets up.

John Farrow, author of the Émile Cinq-Mars series

Other titles by Barbara Fradkin