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True Crime Standouts in CanLit
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True Crime Standouts in CanLit

By kileyturner
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Expertly written and researched investigations into some of Canada's most notorious crimes.
The Bastard of Fort Stikine

The Bastard of Fort Stikine

The Hudson's Bay Company and the Murder of John McLoughlin, Jr.
edition:eBook

Winner, Canadian Authors Award for Canadian History, Jeanne Clarke Memorial Local History Award, and Prince Edward Island Book Award for Non-Fiction

Is it possible to reach back in time and solve an unsolved murder, more than 170 years after it was committed?

Just after midnight on April 21, 1842, John McLoughlin, Jr. — the chief trader for the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Stikine, in the northwest corner of the territory that would later become British Columbia — was shot to death by his own …

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Who Killed Tom Thomson?

Who Killed Tom Thomson?

The Truth about the Murder of One of the 20th Century's Most Famous Artists
edition:Hardcover

Tom Thomson was Canada's Vincent van Gogh. He painted for a period of five years before meeting his untimely death in a remote wilderness lake in July 1917. He was buried in an unofficial grave close to the lake where his body was found. About eight hours after he was buried, the coroner arrived but never examined the body and ruled his death accidental due to drowning. A day and a half later, Thomson's family hired an undertaker to exhume the body and move it to the family plot about 100 miles …

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Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning

How I Came to Meet the Man Who Murdered My Father
edition:Paperback

Finalist, Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction

 

A Globe 100 Best Book of the Year

Finalist, Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize (BC Book Prizes)

When Carys Cragg was eleven, her father, a respected doctor, was brutally murdered in his own home by an intruder. Twenty years later, and despite the reservations of her family and friends, she decides to contact his murderer in prison, and the two correspond for a period of two years. She learns of his horrific childhood, and the reasons he lied …

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A Daughter's Deadly Deception

A Daughter's Deadly Deception

The Jennifer Pan Story
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

2017 Arthur Ellis Award, Best Nonfiction Book — Winner
A sinister plot by a young woman left her mother dead and her father riddled with bullets.

From the outside looking in, Jennifer Pan seemed like a model daughter living a perfect life. The ideal child, the one her immigrant parents saw, was studying to become a pharmacist at the University of Toronto. But there was a dark, deceptive side to the angelic young woman.

In reality, Jennifer spent her days in the arms of her high school sweethear …

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Excerpt

It has to be a nightmare.
“Where’s the fucking money?” the voice asks.
The hushed tones of the intruder are followed by a silent, visceral threat — the cold metal of a handgun against his cheek. As the father of two lifts his gaze, quivering with fear, the man speaks again: “Where’s the fucking money? I said.”
What is happening? The man is in his own bed, in his own home, sleeping soundly after a long day of work. He attempts to shake off the grogginess of his deep slumber, to understand exactly what’s transpiring. The intruder standing over him doesn’t have time for his attempts at comprehension; he has his orders, now he needs to execute. Today is payday. He grabs fifty-seven-year-old Hann Pan roughly by the scruff of the neck. If Hann had time to put on his glasses, he would be able see into his assailant’s eyes, though they’re largely hidden beneath a baseball cap that is pulled down low on his forehead. The man leads him downstairs, the gun pressed firmly to the back of his head. As they descend the semicircular staircase, the scale of the threat to Hann and his family is revealed one horrifying step at a time. Downstairs, another masked man, also wearing a flat-brimmed baseball cap, stands over Hann’s wife, Bich-Ha, a gun to her neck.
Bich’s feet are still soaking in a bucket of water after her weekly line-dancing class. She timidly looks up and asks her husband, in Cantonese, her voice cracking with fright, “How did they get in?”
“I don’t know,” he answers. “I was sleeping.”
Impatient, one of the men shouts, “Shut up! You talk too much.” He turns to Hann and repeats, this time slower, his voice seething with rage: “Where’s the fucking money?
Hann, believing the men only want to rob him, not hurt his wife or him, obliges. The problem is that since the Pans were robbed years ago when they lived in Scarborough — a rough area he moved his family out of to avoid this sort of confrontation — they no longer keep large amounts of money at home. “I have $60 in my pants upstairs, but my possessions are worth plenty,” he tells his tormentor.
“Liar! I need the fucking money, nothing else.”
Hann suddenly feels a searing pain in the back of his head. He falls to the floor. A gush of blood cascades over the living room couch.
“Get up!”
As he and his wife are led into the basement of their middle-class suburban home, true fear begins to rise to the surface of Hann’s mind. Still, he can’t imagine the scale of violence and horror that is about to descend upon his home and family this unseasonably warm November night.
It’s different for Hann’s wife. She senses the imminent danger. She blurts out a panicked plea: “You can hurt us, but please don’t hurt my daughter.” Her mind is racing, frantic, wondering why they’re being taken downstairs. She begins to plead with the intruders, whimpering and begging them to take pity on her humble family.
In the basement, the couple is ordered to sit on the couch, the same place where their daughter Jennifer lounged, watching her weekly sitcoms, just hours earlier. The men throw blankets over the couple’s heads, blankets that keep the family members warm in the often-frigid basement. Hann remains calm, resigned to his fate; his wife is hysterical. The assailant readies himself, aims, and fires. One bullet rips through Hann’s face, fracturing the bone near the inside corner of his right eye, grazing his carotid artery. A second bullet hits him in the right shoulder, exiting out the back of the top of his shoulder.
The men turn their attention to his screaming wife. The initial blast from the firearm pierces the base of her neck. A second shot tears through her upper-right shoulder. And a final bullet, this time fired at closer range, enters and swiftly exits her skull: a fatal shot.
Daughter Jennifer, who is later discovered by the police tied to the upstairs banister, recounts the sound of “four or five pops” and then an unknown number of footfalls before the intruders leave the house.
When Hann slowly regains consciousness and opens his eyes, he is gripped with terror as he comes to realize that the last eight minutes of his life have not been a gruesome nightmare but instead a terrifying reality. As the details of the break-in race through his mind, he looks beside him, where the love of his life lies, bloodied; her body has slumped to the floor. He crawls to her, wincing in pain, blood dripping from wounds in his shoulder and head. He shakes her, calls out her name, once, twice, three times — no response. The life has already left his wife of thirty years. He begins to howl in agony, a pain both physical and emotional. As he lurches upstairs, his desperate screams and moans are clearly audible to the 911 operators fielding his daughter Jennifer’s panicked call for assistance. Hann reaches the main floor and staggers to the front door. Outside, he collapses in front of a neighbour who is on his way to an early shift at work.
“Dad?” his daughter Jennifer yells down to him. “I’m calling 911 … I’m okay.”
But her father doesn’t hear her. He is racked by pain in his own world of dread.

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Dark Ambition

Dark Ambition

The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback Paperback

Shortlisted for the 2017 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, Nonfiction Category
Longlisted for the 2018 Frank Hegyi Award for Emerging Authors

Tim Bosma was a happy young father with a promising future when he listed his pickup truck for sale online, went for a test drive with two strangers, and never returned. The story of the Hamilton man’s strange disappearance in May 2013 captured headlines across the country and took over social media, resonating with everyone who had ever taken a test drive or …

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Excerpt

FOR SALE BY OWNER
A 2007 Dodge Power Ram 3500 Diesel 4x4 pick-up truck
170,000 kilometres – mostly highway
5.9 litre engine
Extended cab – short box Gray cloth interior
New transmission, new brakes
Price $24,000.00
Address: Ancaster, Ontario
 
This is the ad posted online by Tim Bosma’s wife, Sharlene, in the spring of 2013. And it is also the starting point of prosecutor Craig Fraser’s opening address at the first-degree murder trial of the two men accused of Bosma’s murder, Dellen Millard and Mark Smich. Fraser has turned his podium sideways so that he can face the fourteen members of the jury as he explains the case the prosecution intends to prove. His delivery is measured and dry. He is not the type of lawyer who sets off fireworks, inspires TV characters, or wins oratory awards. But for this trial, no special effects are required. Fraser’s style suits the story he is telling—a story that is sensational, tragic, and almost beyond belief. And it all begins with the problems caused by that black Dodge Ram diesel.

The truck had been running up hefty repair bills, causing stress for its owners, a young family on a tight budget. A plan was put in place to sell it and replace it with a cheaper, better functioning truck, but unfortunately there weren’t many prospective buyers. An earlier version of the ad that had run in April had failed to attract even one serious prospect. A man who Tim Bosma referred to as a tire kicker had emailed a few times to ask a lot of questions then never bothered to view the vehicle in person.

The first person to actually want to see the truck was a caller from Toronto who was prepared to drive one hundred kilometres to Bosma’s home in Ancaster to check it out. That seemed like a good sign, so in preparation for the visit Bosma washed and waxed his truck. Then, at 7:25 on the morning of the planned appointment, he sent a text to confirm: “Good morning. It’s Tim. I’m working in Hamilton today if you want to meet or do you still want to meet at my house tonight for 7 pm?” He was upset when the text went unanswered and then relieved when the man from Toronto finally called at 7:22 that evening to say he was en route to see the truck and would be there within an hour.

What happened after that would make headlines around the world. Tim Bosma left with two strangers on a test drive from which he would never return. Social media exploded with the news of his disappearance. The police requested help from the public in their search for the missing man and his truck, and their almost daily news conferences were live-streamed online and then endlessly dissected on the internet. Within days, an arrest was made, and then two weeks later another one. But the arrests didn’t make things any clearer. The opposite, in fact: they made the disappearance of Tim Bosma more puzzling than ever.

The first man police arrested was Dellen Millard, a wealthy young heir to his family’s aviation business who owned several million dollars’ worth of properties in Toronto. On the day after he went for the test drive, he had closed on the purchase of a condo for which he was reported to have paid more than $600,000 in cash. As his lawyer and hordes of online commentators kept insisting, he could easily have afforded to buy a brand-new truck. Others pointed out that if Millard were a psychopath, devoid of empathy and seeking thrills, how much money he had was irrelevant.

The second man arrested was Mark Smich, an unemployed drug dealer who lived with his mother in her suburban middle-class home. His last arrest, a few months earlier, had been for spray-painting graffiti on a highway overpass. Until this trial, he had never inspired anywhere near the same level of interest as Millard.

On their first day of trial, both defendants tell the court that they are pleading not guilty to first-degree murder and that they are ready to proceed.

Because of the very public nature of the early investigation into Bosma’s disappearance, it has long been known that the evidence in this case is strong. Two days after Millard’s arrest, Bosma’s truck was found concealed inside a transport trailer parked in Millard’s mother’s driveway. Human remains burned beyond recognition were discovered at Millard’s Southern Ontario farm. And most sinister of all, Millard was revealed to own a portable livestock incinerator, named the Eliminator, despite the fact that he kept no animals on his farm.

Fraser tells the jury that he and his two fellow prosecutors will prove that in the late evening of May 6, 2013, Tim Bosma was killed in his truck, shot by the two accused at close range, and that his body was then incinerated hours later by Millard and Smich. To make the Crown’s case, there will be testimony from multiple forensic scientists, including blood-spatter and gunshot-residue experts as well as the anthropologist who examined the bones and remains found in the Eliminator. There will be video showing the Eliminator being towed to the Millardair hangar at the Region of Waterloo International Airport and then being ignited outside the hangar door—and still more video taken from the security system in the hangar. There will be extensive analysis of the cell phones used by the accused and their friends. There will be testimony from the friends and girlfriends of Millard and Smich, some of whom knew they planned to steal a truck. And there will be letters sent from jail by Millard to his girlfriend, Christina Noudga, who was charged as an accessory after the fact to Tim Bosma’s murder almost a year after her boyfriend’s arrest.

In his letters, Millard asks Noudga to witness tamper and get his best friend to change his statement to police. “If he knew that his words were going to get me a life sentence, he would want to change them,” Millard wrote. “Show him how he can, and he will change them.” He instructed Noudga to destroy his letters, but—whether for sentimental reasons or as an insurance policy or both—she defied his wishes and kept them. The very damaging letters were seized from her bedroom when it was searched upon her arrest.

Noudga’s arrest occurred the same day Millard and Smich were charged with another murder, that of twenty-three-year-old Laura Babcock, on or around July 3, 2012, in the area of Toronto, ten months before Bosma’s death. Millard alone was also charged with the murder, on November 29, 2012, of his father, Wayne. Although not a word will be heard about those cases at the Tim Bosma trial, the complications of prosecuting three overlapping murder cases, not to mention their multijurisdictional nature, are among the reasons it has taken almost three years for the trial for the murder of Tim Bosma to begin. From the test drive on May 6, 2013, to February 1, 2016, when Craig Fraser addresses the jury, a thousand and one days have elapsed.

Throughout this time, someone from Tim Bosma’s family has attended every single court date for Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, from two-minute video appearances to the full days of pretrial motions that took place in the fall of 2015. In the face of trial delays and tedious legal arguments about evidence admissibility and the like, Tim’s parents, Hank and Mary, have remained outwardly stoic—and frequently cheerful. Hank, a small, wiry man with a grey moustache, bald head, and glasses, will often approach journalists to tell them he likes an article they wrote or a TV report they did about his son. He will joke in the elevator of Hamilton’s John Sopinka Courthouse about little things like where to get a coffee and make it back to court in time. Mary, a petite blonde, is more shy, but like her husband she smiles when she wishes everyone Merry Christmas on the last day of pretrial motions. The Bosmas’ faith—they are active members of the Ancaster Christian Reformed Church—has helped carry them through, as have the many friends who have accompanied them to court in the days, months, and years since Tim was taken from them.

Except for some members of the defendants’ families, a few of their friends, and the usual handful of conspiracy theorists, this is not, for the vast majority of people, a trial about guilt. It’s far more about the how and the why of what happened to Tim Bosma and the very nature of evil. It’s also about the dread that almost every major murder trial brings to the surface—the fear that justice will not be done. There might be a “glove doesn’t fit” moment, a secret “deal with the devil.” Or, in this case, one of the accused might succeed in blaming the other and walk away with no more than a few years in jail.

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Shadow of Doubt

Shadow of Doubt

The Trial of Dennis Oland
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : rich & famous

Winner, New Brunswick Book Award for Non-Fiction

Shortlisted, Arthur Ellis Best Non-Fiction Crime Book Award

On July 6, 2011, Richard Oland, scion of the Moosehead brewing family, was murdered in his office. The brutal killing stunned the city of Saint John, and news of the crime reverberated across the country. In a shocking turn, and after a two-and-half-year police investigation, Oland's only son, Dennis, was arrested for second-degree murder.

CBC reporter Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon covered the Oland …

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That Lonely Section of Hell

That Lonely Section of Hell

The Botched investigation of a Serial Killer Who Almost Got Away
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook

One of the Globe and Mail 100 Best Books for 2015

 

“The most important book of the year.” — Stacey May Fowles, the Globe and Mail

 

An ex-police detective’s searing personal account of sexism, racism, and mishandling in the investigation of missing and murdered women.

 

In That Lonely Section of Hell, ex-police detective Lori Shenher (who transitioned to male in 2015 and is now known as Lorimer) describes his role in Vancouver’s infamous Missing and Murdered Women Investigation and his y …

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Ballad of Jacob Peck

Ballad of Jacob Peck

edition:Paperback

Shortlisted, Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing

On a frigid February evening in 1805, Amos Babcock brutally murdered Mercy Hall. Believing that he was being instructed by God, Babcock stabbed and disembowelled his own sister, before dumping her lifeless body in a rural New Brunswick snowbank.

The Ballad of Jacob Peck is the tragic and fascinating story of how isolation, duplicity, and religious mania turned impoverished, hard-working people violent, leading to a murder and an …

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