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Literary Mysteries to Read Next

By kileyturner
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You'll read these for the mystery and end up loving the language just as much as the plot.
How a Woman Becomes a Lake

How a Woman Becomes a Lake

also available: Paperback

Shortlisted for the 2021 Crime Writers of Canada Award for Best Crime Novel
From the Giller-nominated author of Y comes How a Woman Becomes a Lake, a taut, suspenseful novel about the dark corners of a small town, and the secrets that lurk within...

It's New Year's Day and the residents of a small fishing town are ready to start their lives anew. Leo takes his two young sons out to the lake to write resolutions on paper boats. That same frigid morning, Vera sets out for a walk with her dog alon …

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Chapter One


He found the car in the second parking lot at Squire Point, doors splayed, engine on. It was a fancy car—something Lewis Côté could never dream of owning. He climbed into the driver’s seat, scanned the expensive leather, ran his hands over the plush black steering wheel, and took the keys out of the ignition. Through the car’s open doors, the snow fell around him, landed on his thighs, and blew into his hair. Someone had drawn a pattern in the condensation on the passenger side window—crosshatches, as if to play tic-tac-toe. Lewis rooted through the glove compartment, checked under the seats, spun around. The back seat was covered in grey and white dog hair, so Lewis whistled and clapped, and after a few minutes, a nice-looking dog—a husky, perhaps—emerged from the woods, its fur caked with snow.

“Hey, boy,” Lewis said, patting the dog’s head and letting the dog lick his hands. “Help me out here.”

They walked together, Lewis having fashioned a makeshift leash from a rope he had in the trunk of his patrol car. The trail was icy and Lewis’s boots slid out from under him. He walked like a duck to keep his balance. The cold air slivered his lungs. There was no reason to draw his gun, but his free hand hovered by his hip, in case.

An hour ago, a woman named Vera Gusev had called the station from the Squire Point pay phone, saying that she had found a little boy. She was at the second parking lot, she said, the boy keeping warm in her car. He had been separated from his father in the woods and was cold but fine--and that was all she said. The sound of her dropping the receiver, it clanging off the side of the phone booth, a muffled cry that could have been “hey” or “wait,” then nothing. Lewis had driven cautiously to the scene, the roads slick. New Year’s Day was a quiet one on the job, everyone asleep, hung over, or in jail from whatever nonsense they’d gotten up to the night before. He cursed himself now for taking his time.

When had it ever been this cold? The blizzard had come at the end of November, blanketing the whole region, and then the temperature had plunged. All anyone could talk about was the weather. Not in eighty years had so much snow fallen. Most people in Whale Bay didn’t even own proper winter coats. Usually it snowed once or twice a year, an inch or two, and melted by the morning. The blizzard was fun at first. School cancelled; everyone out walking. The army was called in to salt the roads. No plows—there wasn’t money for that. Anyone from the East Coast—or the Midwest, as was the case with Lewis—thought this was a non-event, silly even. The high comedy of shovelling a driveway with a cookie sheet, a casserole dish, the lid of a garbage can. The snow was so high that children knocked down foot-long icicles from the street lights and used them as swords.

Only one death so far: a man whose car had filled with carbon monoxide as he waited for his windshield to defrost, the tailpipe clogged with snow. There wasn’t much sympathy for him. Should’ve known better. Maybe suicide then. A homeless man had almost died of hypothermia, but was fine—had been interviewed by the local news while eating a dish of ice cream in his hospital bed.

Of course, the requisite traffic accidents and power outages. A fist fight in a grocery store over the last carton of milk. Some looting. A collapsed roof, a destroyed greenhouse. Mostly, though, the eerie silence that accompanies so much snow, and the inevitable camaraderie from enduring an out-of-the-ordinary event. A return to kindness, Lewis thought. The simplicity of survival. He had missed the snow.

He was twenty-four, attractive yet baby-faced, unmarried and without children—still a boy in some ways, even though he carried a baton and a gun. He got a little thrill when he told people what he did for a living. “So young!” they said and he wanted to say, “Do you think I haven’t paid my dues? Do you think I don’t deserve it?” He wondered when he would stop being young. When he would cease to be the baby of the department. When all the joshing, the incessant joking around about his boyish looks, would stop. He felt himself to be a deeply earnest person. A good person. Even as a boy, he had a knack for reading people, a skill he attributed to his father, who was crazy in an invisible, functional way, so that Lewis had spent much of his life trying to piece together what had made his childhood so fraught, and why as a child he had been so nervous and unhappy. His mother had died so long ago that he had almost no memories of her, but there was an uncle he planned to contact someday, who he hoped could provide answers. But Lewis hadn’t gotten around to it yet. It seemed like such a huge undertaking: to go after the truth like that.

It was snowing again. It had been snowing all day and the forest was silent except for Lewis’s footfalls and the heavy panting of the dog. The dog pulled hard on the leash and Lewis had to brace himself on a tree trunk so he wouldn’t spill forward.

“Whoa, boy,” he said, then again more forcefully, snapping the leash a bit. But the dog was unrelenting and led him off the trail and into the woods. The snow fogged his glasses and Lewis could taste it on his lips, metallic and cold. He hoped he wasn’t about to uncover some grisly scene, though he did feel something bubbling up within him, something like excitement. He looked behind him, trying to memorize his way back to the trail. Squire Point was a confusing place. There were two parking lots with trailheads—both led to a large reservoir with a swimming hole that locals called “the lake”; the second trail cut through a small campground. The trails were unmarked and it was easy to go in circles. People often got lost, but all were usually found within a few hours. There were only so many ways a person could go.
“Vera Gusev? Hello?”

Why come out here in such bad conditions? Why not stay home? The dog leapt over a fallen tree and Lewis scrambled over it, caught his pant leg on a branch. He felt the snow creep into his socks, cold water between his toes. His hands burned. He passed the abandoned campground, and then he and the dog were standing at the edge of the lake, frozen over and covered with a dusting of snow. The dog whined and pulled against the leash, wanting to go out onto the ice.

“No, no,” he said to the dog. “Bad idea.”

Although the snow was falling fast, Lewis thought he could make out a trail of footprints on the ice. He squinted, snow in his eyelashes. Nothing. The footprints were gone. He hoped Vera and the boy hadn’t wandered onto the ice. People thought frozen lakes were stable, and they walked out onto them. People did this sort of thing all the time. They drove snowmobiles and trucks onto lakes! Lewis had done this as a boy every winter, in his father’s red pickup truck, on Lake Mendota. Even there, two or three people fell in every year, fishermen mostly, their bodies pulled out—sometimes alive, sometimes not—covered in icicles. That was the trouble with frozen lakes. There was no way to tell the thickness of the ice, nor the depth of the water beneath.

“Okay, boy,” Lewis said to the dog, and the dog sat, obediently, by Lewis’s side. The snow stopped, as if someone had flicked a switch. Now that the sky had cleared, Lewis could see the great iced-over expanse of the lake, a pale blue colour like a wolf’s eye, and the bright swatches of beach sand that lay below the ice, looking almost tropical despite the cold. A bird loitered on a branch, repeating its song. Lewis put his hand on top of the dog’s warm head. His hand seemed to mould perfectly to the shape of the dog’s head, as if it was meant to be there, meant to fill the emptiness of his hand. How did anyone get through life without a dog? He’d had a border terrier when he was a boy, and perhaps that was why he was largely okay, despite what he had been through with his father. Someone had to love you unconditionally in order for you to survive. Someone had to love you as much as you needed to be loved.

He scanned the lake, but there was no one. No signs of anyone having fallen through. He looked at the dog, tongue out, expectant. He heard the rumble of an airplane overhead. What can you see that I can’t see? What do you know that I don’t know? If Vera Gusev and the lost boy were out there, in the forest or under the ice, the lake, the dog, the plane, the sky—they gave away nothing.

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Back Roads

Back Roads

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In Scotiabank Giller Prize–longlisted author Andrée A. Michaud’s genre-defying, ethereal mystery, a writer encounters her double and must grapple with an undetermined crime — and her own identity.
In the dubious sanctuary of a wintry forest, a writer encounters a woman who she suspects may be her double. So begins a journey of inquiry in which nothing, not even the author’s own identity, is certain. Who is Heather Thorne? Is she a stranger dangerously out of place in the woods, the vic …

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Watching You Without Me

Watching You Without Me

also available: Paperback

The highly anticipated new literary suspense novel from Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Lynn Coady.

After her mother’s sudden death, Karen finds herself back in her childhood home in Nova Scotia for the first time in a decade, acting as full-time caregiver to Kelli, her older sister. Overwhelmed with grief and the daily needs of Kelli, who was born with a developmental disability, Karen begins to feel consumed by the isolation of her new role. On top of that, she’s weighed down with …

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These days, when I tell this story to friends, it’s always the moment Trevor lets himself in with his key the next day — a Sunday — that makes them kind of whoop in their seats. Or flop backward in a gesture of full-bodied incredulity. Or just stare at me like I’m an idiot. But, I explain, Trevor had a key, and that was what he was used to doing. Apparently my mother had given it to him for both of their convenience. The key was sanctioned. She hadn’t given it to any of the other care workers, but that was because, I assumed, they were on a rotation — you never knew who would be coming to bathe Kelli from week to week. Trevor, however, only covered walks, and he turned up like clockwork every Tuesday and Friday morning at ten on the dot.

But this was Sunday, some of my friends argue, and he wasn’t working, he was visiting. Yes, I say, but why would he deviate from habit? This was a house he had a key for, and whenever he came over, he would open the door and come in. That was his routine. So it’s understandable he’d do the same thing on Sunday he would’ve done on a Tuesday or Friday. Isn’t it?

At the time, I thought nothing of it. Trevor said he’d come at ten on Sunday, just as he did on Tuesdays and Fridays, and it was ten on the dot when he inserted his key in the door. Kelli and I had our jackets on, ready to go.

I have to admit, everything about that day was off. It started with Trevor’s insistence we all cram into the cab of his pickup truck when there was a perfectly comfortable two-door sedan parked in the driveway.

“No,” said Trevor. “I’m more comfortable driving the truck.” As if the question of who would drive had already been discussed and dispensed with.

So Kelli got in the middle, which she was not too happy about, especially when I had to root around beneath her thighs and buttocks to find the middle safety belt, which it turned out had been used so rarely it had been all but consumed by the tuck of the seat. Then I stuffed myself in beside her, which I was not happy about because being crammed against my sister was a lot like cuddling up against a lavishly padded space heater. And then, of course, there was Trevor, squeezing in behind the wheel, calling, “Suck in your guts, girls!” before he closed the door.

“Knee,” said Kelli a moment after we pulled out of the driveway. Which meant her right knee was cramping up, as it often did when she sat in close quarters.

“Your knee sore, Kelli?” I asked.

“Knee sore.”

“She’s got arthritis,” I explained to Trevor. “We should maybe get the sedan …”

Trevor glanced down at Kelli’s thighs, like two massive, sweatpants-clad loaves of bread squashed together.

“Ah, you’re good, darlin.’”

“Knee sore.”

“It’s a short trip.”

It was a thirty-minute trip out of town, the last five minutes of which took place along a winding dirt road that grew darker the deeper it took us into the woods.

This is like a fairy tale, I remember thinking. But the cautionary, old-world kind, the kind that never bothered with happy endings. Where parents take their innocent and trusting children to the forest and abandon them for hungry old ladies to entice into their ovens, for talking wolves to swallow whole.

“Kelli’s knee,” said Kelli.

“Almost there, Beaner.”

And it was true. All at once the woods opened up — also like a fairy tale, but this time of the Disney variety. Because what stood before us was a mansion. An honest-to-god Regency-style mansion like something out of Masterpiece Theatre. Where was the horse and carriage? Where were Mr. Darcy and the Bennett sisters? It had a Doric portico and French windows and buttresses and balustrades.

“This is it,” said Trevor. “Barnbarroch Manor.”

I burst out laughing. The angry kind.

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Someone We Know

Someone We Know

A Novel
also available: Paperback

"No one does suburban paranoia like Shari Lapena." —Ruth Ware, internationally bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10
Maybe you don't know your neighbours as well as you thought you did . . .

This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much. . . . My son broke into your home recently while you were out.

In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses …

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Saturday, October 14

Olivia Sharpe sits in her kitchen drinking a cup of coffee, gazing blankly out the glass sliding doors to the backyard. It's mid-October, and the maple tree near the back fence is looking splendid in its reds and oranges and yellows. The grass is still green, but the rest of the garden has been prepared for winter; it won't be long before the first frost, she thinks. But for now, she enjoys the yellow sunlight filtering through her backyard and slanting across her spotless kitchen. Or she tries to. It's hard to enjoy anything when she is coming to a slow boil inside.

Her son, Raleigh, still isn't up. Yes, it's Saturday, and he's been in school all week, but it's two o'clock in the afternoon, and it drives her crazy that he's still asleep.

She puts down her coffee and trudges once again up the carpeted stairs to the second floor. She hesitates outside her son's bedroom door, reminds herself not to yell, and then knocks lightly and opens it. As she expected, he's sound asleep. His blanket is still over his head-he pulled it over his head the last time she came in, a half hour ago. She knows he hates it when she tells him to get up, but he doesn't do it on his own, and what is she supposed to do, let him sleep all day? On the weekends she likes to let him relax a little, but for Christ's sake, it's midafternoon.

"Raleigh, get up. It's after two o'clock." She hates the edge she hears in her voice, but she expends so much energy trying to get this boy out of bed every day, it's hard not to resent it.

He doesn't so much as twitch. She stands there looking down at him, feeling a complicated mix of love and frustration. He's a good boy. A smart but unmotivated student. Completely lovable. He's just lazy-not only will he not get out of bed on his own, but he doesn't do his homework, and he doesn't help with chores around the house without endless nagging. He tells her he hates her nagging. Well, she hates it, too. She tells him that if he did what she asked the first time, she wouldn't have to repeat herself, but he doesn't seem to get it. She puts it down to his being sixteen. Sixteen-year-old boys are murder. She hopes that by the time he's eighteen or nineteen, his prefrontal cortex will be more developed, and he will have better executive function and start being more responsible.

"Raleigh! Come on, get up." He still doesn't move, doesn't acknowledge her existence, not even with a grunt. She sees his cell phone lying faceup on his bedside table. If he won't get up, fine, she'll confiscate his cell phone. She imagines his hand flailing around, reaching for it before he even takes the covers off his head. She snatches the phone and leaves the room, slamming the door behind her. He'll be furious, but so is she.

She returns to the kitchen and puts his phone down on the counter. It pings. A text message has popped up. She has never snooped in her son's phone or computer. She doesn't know his passwords. And she completely trusts him. But this message is right there in front of her, and she looks at it.

Did you break in last night?

She freezes. What the hell does that mean?

Another ping. Get anything good?

Her stomach flips.

Text me when ur up

She picks up the phone and stares at it, waiting for another message, but nothing comes. She tries to open his phone, but, of course, it's password protected.

Her son was out last night. He said he'd gone to a movie. With a friend. He didn't say who.

She asks herself what she should do. Should she wait for his father to get back from the hardware store? Or should she confront her son first? She feels terribly uneasy. Is it possible Raleigh could be up to no good? She can't believe it. He's lazy, but he's not the kind of kid to get into trouble. He's never been in any trouble before. He has a good home, a comfortable life, and two parents who love him. He can't possibly . . .

If this is what it looks like, his father will be furious, too. Maybe she'd better talk to Raleigh first.

She climbs the stairs, the earlier love and frustration shoved abruptly aside by an even more complicated mix of rage and fear. She barges into his room with his phone in her fist and yanks the covers off his head. He opens his eyes blearily; he looks angry, like a wakened bear. But she's angry, too. She holds his cell phone in front of him.

"What were you up to last night, Raleigh? And don't say you were at the movies, because I'm not buying it. You'd better tell me everything before your father gets home." Her heart is pounding with anxiety. What has he done?

Raleigh looks up at his mom. SheÕs standing over him with his cell phone in her hand. What the hell is she doing with his cell phone? What is she blathering on about? He's annoyed, but heÕs still half asleep. He doesnÕt wake up just like that; it's an adjustment.

"What?" he manages to say. He's pissed off at her for barging in here when he's asleep. She's always trying to wake him up. She always wants everyone on her schedule. Everyone knows his mom's a bit of a control freak. She should learn to chill. But now she looks really mad. She's glaring at him in a way he's never seen before. He suddenly wonders what time it is. He turns to look at his clock radio. It's two fifteen. Big deal. Nobody died.

"What the hell have you been up to?" she demands, holding his phone out like an accusation.

His heart seems to skip a beat, and he holds his breath. What does she know? Has she gotten into his phone? But then he remembers that she doesn't know the passcode, and he starts to breathe again.

"I just happened to be glancing at your phone when a text came in," his mom says.

Raleigh struggles to sit up, his mind going blank. Shit. What did she see?

"Have a look," she says, and tosses the phone at him.

He thumbs the phone and sees the damning texts from Mark. He sits there staring at them, wondering how to spin this. He's afraid to look his mother in the face.

"Raleigh, look at me," she says.

She always says that when she's mad. Slowly he looks up at her. He's wide awake now.

"What do those texts mean?"

"What texts?" he says stupidly, playing for time. But he knows he's busted. The texts are pretty fucking clear. How could Mark be so stupid? He looks back down at the phone again; it's easier than looking at his mother's face. Did you break in last night? Get anything good?

He starts to panic. His brain can't come up with anything fast enough to satisfy his mother. All he can think of is a desperate, "It's not what it looks like!"

"Oh, that's good to hear," his mom says in her most sarcastic voice. "Because it looks like you've been up to a bit of breaking and entering!"

He sees an opening. "It's not like that. I wasn't stealing."

She gives him an enraged look and says, "You'd better tell me everything, Raleigh. No bullshit."

He knows he can't get out of this by denying it. He's caught like a rat in a trap, and now all he can do is damage control. "I did sneak into somebody's house, but I wasn't stealing. It was more like-just looking around," he mutters.

"You actually broke into someone's house last night?" his mother says, aghast. "I can't believe this! Raleigh, what were you thinking?" She throws her hands up. "Why on earth would you even do that?"

He sits there on his bed, speechless, because he doesn't know how to explain. He does it because it's a kick, a thrill. He likes to get into other people's houses and hack into their computers. He doesn't dare tell her that. She should be glad he's not doing drugs.

"Whose house was it?" she demands now.

His mind seizes. He can't answer that. If he tells her whose house he was in last night, she'll completely lose it. He can't bear to think of what the consequences of that might be.

"I don't know," he lies.

"Well, where was it?"

"I can't remember. What difference does it make? I didn't take anything! They won't even know I was there."

His mom leans her face in toward him and says, "Oh, they'll know all right."

He looks at her in fear. "What do you mean?"

"You're going to get dressed, and then you're going to show me the house you broke into, and then you're going to knock on the door and apologize."

"I can't," he says desperately.

"You can, and you will," she says. "Whether you want to or not."

He starts to sweat. "Mom, I can't. Please don't make me."

She looks at him shrewdly. "What else aren't you telling me?" she asks.

But at that moment, he hears the front door opening and his dad whistling as he drops his keys on the table in the hall. Raleigh's heart starts to pound, and he feels slightly sick. His mother he can handle, but his dad-he can't bear to think of how his dad's going to react. He didn't anticipate this; he never thought he'd get caught. Fucking Mark.

"Get up, now," his mother commands, ripping the rest of the covers off him. "We're going to talk to your father."

As he makes his way down the stairs in his pajamas, he's sweating. When they enter the kitchen, his dad looks up in surprise. He can obviously tell from their expressions that something's up.

The whistling stops abruptly. "What's going on?" his dad asks.

"Maybe we'd better all sit down," his mother says, pulling out a chair at the kitchen table. "Raleigh has something to tell you, and you're not going to like it."

They all sit. The sound of the chairs scraping against the floor rips at Raleigh's raw nerves like nails on a chalkboard.

He has to confess. He knows that. But he doesn't have to tell them everything. He's more awake now, better able to think. "Dad, I'm really sorry, and I know it was wrong," he begins. His voice is trembling, and he thinks it's a good start. But his dad's brow has darkened already, and Raleigh's afraid. He hesitates.

"What the hell have you done, Raleigh?" his father asks.

He stares back at his dad, but the words don't come. For a moment, he feels completely paralyzed.

"He broke into somebody's house," his mother says finally.


There's no mistaking the shock and fury in his father's voice. Raleigh quickly averts his eyes and looks at the floor. He says, "I didn't break in. I snuck in."

"Why the hell did you do that?" his father demands.

Raleigh shrugs his shoulders, but doesn't answer. He's still staring at the floor.


His mother prods him with a hand on his shoulder. "Raleigh?"

He finally raises his head and looks at his dad. "Last night."

His father looks back at him, his mouth hanging open. "You mean, while we were here having friends over for dinner, and you were supposed to be at a movie, you were actually out sneaking into someone else's house?" His voice has grown in volume until, by the end of the sentence, his father is shouting. For a moment, there's silence. The air vibrates with tension. "Were you alone, or were you with someone else?"

"Alone," he mumbles.

"So we can't even console ourselves with the idea that someone else led you into this completely unacceptable, criminal, behavior?"

Raleigh wants to put his hands over his ears to block out his dad's shouting, but he knows this will only incense his dad further. He knows it looks worse that he acted alone.

"Whose house was it?"

"I don't know."

"So what happened?" His dad glances at his mom, and then back at him. "Did you get caught?"

Raleigh shakes his head, and his mom says, "No. I saw a text on his cell phone. Raleigh, show your dad the texts."

Raleigh unlocks and hands over the phone, and his dad looks at the screen in disbelief. "Jesus, Raleigh! How could you? Have you done this before?"

This is the thing about his father-he knows what questions to ask. Things his mother, rattled by shock, didn't think to ask. Raleigh has done it before, a few times. "Just one other time," he lies, avoiding his father's eyes.

"So you've broken into two houses."

He nods.

"Does anyone know?"

Raleigh shakes his head. "Of course not."

"Of course not," his dad repeats sarcastically. His dad's sarcasm is worse than his mom's. "Your friend knows. Who's he?"

"Mark. From school."

"Anyone else?"

Raleigh shakes his head reluctantly.

"Is there any way you might get caught? Security cameras?"

Raleigh shakes his head again, and looks up at his dad. "There weren't any security cameras. I checked."

"Jesus. I can't believe you. Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

"They don't even know I was there," Raleigh says defensively. "I was really careful. I told Mom-I never took anything. I didn't do any harm."

"Then what were you doing there?" his dad asks.

"I don't know. Just looking around, I guess."

"Just looking around, I guess," his dad repeats, and it makes Raleigh feel about six years old. "What were you looking at? Ladies' underwear?"

"No!" Raleigh shouts, flushing hotly with embarrassment. He's not some kind of a pervert. He mutters, "I was mostly looking in their computers."

"Dear God," his dad shouts, "you went into people's computers?"

Raleigh nods miserably.

His dad slams the table and gets up. He starts pacing around the kitchen, glaring back at Raleigh. "Don't people use passwords?"

"Sometimes I can get past them," he says, his voice quavering.

"And what did you do, when you were looking around in people's private computers?"

"Well . . ." and it all comes out in a rush. He feels his mouth twist as he tries not to cry. "All I did was write some prank emails from-from someone's email account." And then, uncharacteristically, he bursts into tears.

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A Novel
tagged : psychological


A riveting novel about a mother’s all-consuming worry for her child over forty-eight hours at a remote cottage with old friends and a mysterious neighbour, for fans of Little Fires Everywhere and Truly Madly Guilty

Ruth is the fiercely protective mother of almost-four-year-old Fern. Together they visit a remote family cottage belonging to Stef, the woman who has been Ruth’s best friend—and Ruth's husband’s best friend—for years. Stef is everythin …

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The Waiting Hours

The Waiting Hours


“The most impressive trick of this book – and it is a very good one – is the way Mitchell pulls off a literary thriller that is as suspenseful as it is introspective.” - The Globe and Mail
When you spend your life saving others...who will be there to save you?

When tragedy erupts on a stifling summer night, three ordinary people, with the extraordinary jobs of rescuing strangers, are connected to one another in ways both explicit and invisible. Each is deeply devoted to what they do, but …

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Kate swung open the jeep’s rear gate and was greeted by Zeus’s tail thumping against the wire crate. Eager to be released, he stretched and pawed the latch. She made a visual check of her search-and-rescue gear, first aid kits, rations, dog supplies, all-weather kit, boots, and backpack. All that was needed to sustain them for a couple of days. Nothing had shifted. She unhitched the crate door and Zeus waited for her to indicate work or play. She fastened a line to his collar, and his tail hoisted higher. It wasn’t work yet.

“Ally-oop,” she said.

He jumped from the hatch, his nose to the ground before his hindquarters landed.

“Do your business.”

Trailing the line behind him, he headed around the SUV to check out the tires.

Kate scanned the debris field of twisted rebar, concrete slabs, mangled cars, and a collapsing barn. Flames and black smoke churned from a rusted oil drum. The team had done a good job mocking up the scene. It wouldn’t be an easy test.

Zeus bumped her fist with his nose.

“Done already?”

He sat and looked up at her.

“You think you need a treat?”

She opened her hand. It was empty. He nudged the other hand. Nothing. He looked to her eyes and breathed her in. He liked this game. Snuffling over her jeans, he focused on her right pocket. His velvety snout brushed her wrists and palm. He was correct. A biscuit had been in that hand and that pocket.

He circled her legs. His nostrils flared, inhaling sharp breaths and snorting out short puffs. He was filtering all that was extrane­ous to extract the singular scent, separating the air he breathed and the cookie he wanted. He licked his nose, heightening the sensitivity of the million receptors that catalogued his world.

The conditions weren’t ideal. In this heat, his nose would dry out quickly. She lightly tapped its wetness. He expelled her scent with a breath and zeroed in on her left ankle. His tail wagged faster. His tail was incapable of lying. His nose bumped her boot top and he sat expectantly, snorting one small woof. She hoisted her pant leg. Ever so gently, his lips tickling her shin, he extracted the biscuit protruding from her hiking boot’s cuff. In one crunch, the biscuit was gone.

She looked to the assessment officer overseeing the exer­cise. It was Riley. Beside him, Heather was serving as designated note taker. His wife was still in basic training with a six-month-old Belgian Malinois that was far too much dog for her to handle. She wasn’t a strong trainer. She flustered easily and talked too much. It definitely wasn’t her calling. Unlike her husband, who was legendary in the search-and-rescue community.

Riley had a reputation for impossible finds, unwavering calm, and a relentless will. He had been a medic in Iraq until he took IED shrapnel in his chest. He had told Kate about the girl who rode on the back of her father’s bicycle and her brother who sat on the handlebars. How he gave the boy a chocolate bar and the girl a pack of gum and how shyly the little girl took it. She wore a poppy-red dress and matching velvet shawl embossed with full-blown roses stitched with golden thread. He showed the little girl how to blow a bubble. It was large and pink, and her eyes widened when it popped.

In the camouflage of night, when she couldn’t see his face, he had told her about the sound an IED makes five hundred feet away, detonating in the trunk of a car. How the pressure drops as the concussion kicks your chest, and the air is sucked from your lungs. And the silence. The depth of silence, right after, and the fall-on-your-knees beauty of white smoke against a robin’s-egg sky. He told her how hot the parts of a bicycle get when it has been incinerated . . . and the weight of what remains of a poppy-red child. He told her this as her fingers traced rose-petal scars on his bare chest. Zeus looked up the leash. He felt her tension in the line. She smiled and loosened her hold. All’s good.

She watched Riley and practised not caring. He was a good-looking man and tough. During SAR’s brutal three-day winter survival certification, he broke his ankle less than half a mile from course completion. He wanted to keep going, and she didn’t doubt he would have crawled to the finish line if they had let him. As it was, he had to run the course again the following winter. He set a new record.

Every team member was loyal to him, and every handler aspired to reach the mastery of Riley and his beloved Belgian, Annabelle. Despite the pressure to get another pup before she died, he refused. They say he was with her at the end. They don’t know he injected the needle. Kate understood why he couldn’t get another dog. He had been with Annabelle for ten years. Four years longer than his wife. She had never seen him interact with his wife’s unruly pup. Kate looked to Zeus. She couldn’t imagine bringing home another dog.

Riley’s arm shot up in the air. It was time.

She grabbed Zeus’s working vest from the truck and he fell in tight against her leg, assuming the heel position. She slipped the stiff Kevlar vest over his back and secured the straps across his belly and broad chest. She completed the task in under thirty seconds. No talking. No dallying. This was work. She strode to the edge of the field. She had trained Zeus for both tracking and air scent. He could alert for cadaver or survivor. It gave him versatility as a search-and-rescue dog. They had never failed a certification test.

Near the burn barrel, Chris and Jake were sitting at the pump truck monitoring the fire. It was twenty-eight Celsius and they were wearing black T-shirts, turnout pants, and boots. The fire boys could have been posing for a calendar. She wondered who the volunteer victim was this week. There were three other dogs run­ning. A German shepherd had already failed with an off-course. She was the only civilian without military training attempting qualifications today. Riley nodded and his arm dropped.

She leaned over and patted Zeus’s lean, muscular side.

“Find live,” she said and unleashed his lead.

Zeus bolted forward. He huffed the air, making quick tight loops over the drought-stricken grass. He swept the open field in a grid pattern. In this stagnant heat, he would be working the updrafts. She kept pace behind him. He ignored the pumper truck crew, but she noticed the bob of his nose indicating their presence and his dismissal, as though he knew it was too easy. He kept course, not slowing or veering around the billowing smoke. She tasted gasoline and wood at the back of her throat.

His head swung back and forth, his body leaned in, and his ears perked forward. His nose popped up. He was on a scent and she jogged to keep up. Her muscles responded with the easy lope of her daily two-mile runs. It was more than a scent he was follow­ing. A scent was the past, a memory. He was gathering a story assembled through pheromones, skin cells, follicles, bruised grass, snapped twigs, and the molecular compositions of man-made scents—the traces left behind.

If he were trailing an animal, he would know the species, gender, and social order, alpha or follower. He’d be able to dis­cern what paths it travelled, the food it ate, and whether it was friend, foe, or prey. Presumably, with a human he could smell the cheapness of their shoes, the sourness of their pants, the soap used, the scrape of a knee, nicotine on fingers, alcohol in pores, and the cancer in their bones. He could smell fear. And death. And weakness. He could smell narrative. She often wondered if he knew the outcome before he reached the ending.

His ears twitched and she noticed the slight rotation of his head, widening his peripheral scope. He was working the scent cone, intent on his directive to find “live.” With a sharp bark, a thrust of his nose, and a sit, he indicated the objects on the ground as possible clues. She marked a sock, a glove, a ball—his eyes watched hers: this might be something. “Good boy,” she said.

His path oscillated and the cone of his track narrowed. He zeroed in on the debris pile. Pacing the base of the massive, upturned cement blocks, he looked for a pathway up and leapt. His hind legs clawed, his hocks knocked concrete, and he scram­bled up and over. Kate’s knee clunked the ragged edge.

Zeus nimbly treaded the twisted rebar, tangled wires, and large rocks that had been heaved up onto the loose boards and ply­wood sheets. Kate noted the clothing strewn about to condition her emotional fortitude—a pink floral dress, a plaid shirt, and a baby’s shoe. Zeus hopped over slabs driving upward to the ragged peak. The structure was more solid than it appeared.

Kate was huffing. Her trail pants were damp and her long-sleeved shirt stuck to her chest. Her feet were broiling in her boots. Slung at her waist, two water bottles slapped bruises on her thigh. She smelled suntan lotion and body odour. Her lips were already dry. Zeus poked his nose into a crevice and inhaled. She watched his ears and tail. There was nothing here.

The rescue organization she got him from had named him Zeus. He was from a litter of eleven found duct-taped in a box and left in a dumpster. Three had died. He had a border-collie brain and physique but his coat had the curl and wave of a spaniel’s. He was all black. His sleek racing body and spindly legs culminated in powerful haunches and a plumed, ever-alert tail. A black dog in the afternoon sun. He was panting.

It had been her weekly routine to walk through the pens of quivering and yapping adoption candidates looking for some­thing extraordinary in their eyes. Zeus was the most inquisitive, fearless, and confident of the litter. As the staff recounted the pups’ brief, sad history, she had surreptitiously run her own tests. Tests that gauged fear, drive, aggression, intelligence, curiosity, frustration—all gently concealed in the guise of belly rubs, head pats, and her fingers dancing across the floor. Commands designed as play. When the other pups had tired of her, Zeus remained, wanting more. It had taken only three hand gestures to teach him to sit, before he offered the behaviour unasked.

That was five years ago. Together, they’d had four live finds and three cadavers. They were catching up to Riley and Annabelle’s record. Kate stumbled and grabbed for a jutting metal rod. A cold-hot sliced through her leather glove. Zeus’s head turned, but she kept moving forward.

Focus, she berated herself. Zeus trotted across a narrow plank, stopping at a fractured opening. His nostrils flared. He bowed and leaned into its space.


Kneeling, she shone her flashlight into the hollow, checking the ceiling and walls for stability, and gave the all-clear. He belly-crawled down the incline. She suppressed the urge to call him back to her safety. She had raised him to be tough physically and mentally, able to withstand gruelling conditions: heat, sound, and ever-varying stimuli. It was the handlers who were the most difficult to train. Choosing to trust their own meagre senses over their dog’s acuity, thus missing obvious communications because of emotion, fear, ego, and fatigue. In the field, these mistakes could cost a life.

She kept her flashlight trained on Zeus. Several mattresses and pallets were propped against the low, bunkered walls. He paused, considering the cross breezes. Honing in on a mattress in the corner, he bowed and barked his deepest voice. Loud. Strong. Certain. A hand emerged. Zeus’s backside swayed with joy. The mattress jostled aside, and seventeen-year-old Ben’s grinning, sweat-drenched face appeared. Riley’s son from his first mar­riage. He had his father’s eyes. Kate raised her fist.


Zeus bounded up the makeshift ramp and slammed against her chest. He pranced on her lap, his hot tongue licking her cheeks. She rewarded him with his favourite toy, a ball with a tether rope. She tugged and the ball squeaked, squeaked, squeaked. She wrapped her arms around his squirming body and held on longer than he needed.

“Good boy,” she said.

She pulled off her glove. Blood seeped from her palm and dripped down her fingers. She reached for his water bottle. Only then did she feel the pinch of pain.

In her pocket, her phone vibrated. She checked the number and wondered why the hospital was calling.

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Recipe for a Perfect Wife

Recipe for a Perfect Wife

A Novel
also available: Paperback


"Recipe for a Perfect Wife is a bold, intoxicating, page-turner. Karma Brown has long been a favorite of mine and this book is proof she just keeps getting better and better. This is a thrilling, audacious story about women daring to take control."--Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones and the Six

When Alice Hale reluctantly leaves a promising career in publicity, following her husband to the New York suburbs, she is …

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