New Books and Featured Reading Lists

Each week on the 49th Shelf homepage, we highlight new releases. We also make theme-based lists and showcase lists from guest contributors and 49th Shelf members. This page archives these selections so they are always available to our members.

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New Children's for the week of February 24th : Awesome New Middle-Grade Books
Until Niagara Falls

We live in Niagara Falls. People who visit call it the honeymoon capital of the world. People born here just call it The Falls. Gran says with all the traffic, noise, and crowds, life here is certainly no honeymoon.
Before school was out for the summer, everyone in my class had to do a project on someone or something that made The Falls famous. Our teacher told us about Annie Taylor, who went over the falls in a barrel with her cat. She wasn’t sure if the part about her cat being black at the beginning of the ride and white at the end was true, which made us all laugh. Most of the boys signed up for the other daredevils that plunged over the brink in some kind of crazy contraption or the collapse of the Honeymoon Bridge.
I chose Jean-François Gravelet, The Great Blondin. He was a funambulist. That’s the fancy name for a tightrope walker. The Great Blondin started with P.T. Barnum in his Greatest Show on Earth, but he was most famous for walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
During work period, I stared at the giant June calendar on the chalkboard, trying to think of a way to get extra marks. I’d given up the idea of walking a tightrope as a demonstration. I wasn’t brave enough to try to balance on a thick rope, even if it was only a foot off the ground.
Miss Heard, the other grade five teacher from across the hall, came to whisper something to my teacher. Miss Heard actually looked pretty when she covered her mouth with her hand. She had the worst set of crooked teeth in the world. I was relieved not to be in her class. I would never be able to stop staring at those teeth long enough to concentrate on my work.
“Brenda,” my teacher called out. “We need your help.”
I got out of my seat and went into the hallway. She probably wanted me to take a message to the principal’s office. I was the only kid in school who could find her way to the principal’s office and back without getting into trouble.
“Someone in Miss Heard’s class isn’t feeling well,” Miss Wilson explained. “She’s not sure of the way home.”
A skinny girl in a faded dress leaned against the wall.
“Rosedale Crescent is off of your street, isn’t it?” Miss Heard said.
I nodded.
“You have your grandmother’s permission to walk her home,” she said, putting the girl’s thin, clammy hand into mine. “Then you are dismissed.”
I opened my mouth in disbelief. It was only two o’ clock. We hadn’t even had afternoon recess. Most kids would have liked the idea of leaving early, but I didn’t. I would have to spend my extra time with Gran. She would make me help with some kind of housework, reminding me over and over again that someday I would have a house of my own. She didn’t know I planned to hire a servant.
“Just a minute,” I said and ran back to my desk. I grabbed my project notes and pencil case, along with every book from my desk, and stuffed them into my school bag. I had to make it look like I had a ton of homework.
“Her name is Maureen Sullivan,” Miss Heard said, taking us to the front of the school. Students didn’t usually use that door. It felt strange walking beside the school flower beds.
As I tightrope-walked the curb, I couldn’t help but notice the frayed laces of Maureen’s worn running shoes. One of her socks had lost its elastic, and it puddled about her ankle, looking, I guessed, the same way she felt.
I walked her to the corner, stopped, and waited. This was only out of habit. I had never seen a car drive up Homewood Avenue.
The cracks in the sidewalk here were bad. In between the dandelions, billions of ants lived in small, sandy mounds. Everyone who walked to school this way said these ants bit, and then they flattened a few mounds before moving on. I wondered why the ants kept on building their homes in the same spot.
Maureen took a big gulp of air. She looked like she might throw up.
“Let’s take a shortcut through the park,” I said, dragging her across the road.
“Good to know a shortcut,” she said with a thin smile. “We just moved here.”
“Where did you live before?” Gran still used the original names of places in the city, like Stamford Centre and Silvertown, places that didn’t exist anymore. I just went by places you could swim. “Did you live up by the Cyanamid swimming pool?” I asked. It was the biggest pool in the city, with a triple-decker diving board, and because it was connected to the canal, sometimes there were real fish in the water. It was too far away to walk, and Dad wouldn’t drive me because we had a perfectly good pool in the park at the end of our street.
“Were you near Chippawa Creek or Dufferin Islands?”
Maureen didn’t speak. She just shook her head slowly from side to side.
Dad was right. The park in our neighbourhood had everything a kid could want. There was a wading pool and a huge sandbox at one end. The adult pool had a deep end with a diving board. Behind that was a tree-topped hill with grown-up swings, slides, and teeter-totters. The hill was perfect for tobogganing.
Because of the baseball diamond and soccer field, it was a busy place in the summer. The Kiwanis Club ran a sports program. Once you turned ten you could join, and that was the trouble with having skipped a grade. Everyone in my class belonged but me.
“This is the municipal park,” I informed her, using my best presentation voice. As soon as I was old enough to work, I planned to be a tour guide. “The swimming pool has a deep end with a single diving board.”
“Uh-huh,” was all she said.
We cut across the baseball field. As we walked beside the pool’s chain-link fence, I looked through the wire diamonds. A couple of buckets of paint and some rollers sat in the empty shallow end. Soon the bottom would once again be bright blue and the sides sparkling white.
“They’re painting,” I said, dropping my school bag and clutching the wire for a good look. “You know what that means?”
Maureen shook her head and leaned against the fence post.
“It means when it’s dry, we can go swimming.”
A man in paint-splattered overalls came out of the door to the boys’ change room. “Hey, you two,” he yelled. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“Hi, Jasper,” I called back. “I have to take this girl home. She’s not feeling well.”
“Then get going,” he said. “Quit hanging around in the hot sun.”
I turned to Maureen, who sat on the cement with her back to the fence, eating something off her finger. I figured she must have found part of a cookie in her pocket. Then I watched in horror as she scraped her fingernail along a patch of dried bubble gum and put it in her mouth.
“You can’t do that,” I said with a grimace.
“Do what?”
“Eat stuff off the sidewalk.”
“It’s just gum.”
I didn’t offer my hand to help her get up.
We walked under the trees and across the grass until we reached Jepson Street.
Cars zipped up and down this street all the time. It got really busy in the summer because Jepson Street ended at Victoria Avenue, the street that took you to the falls. Here we had to wait, but I didn’t mind. Every house on the street had either an oak or an elm tree on the front lawn. The trees grew over the road, making a huge, leafy tunnel. It was the best way to go when biking to the library.
“Where do you live?” I asked before we turned on to Rosedale Crescent. But as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I knew. The lawn of the little green wooden house was full of furniture and cardboard boxes. A motorbike leaned against the front porch.
Children swam about the place like tadpoles. A red-cheeked baby slept beneath a blanket spread across two kitchen chairs.
A skinny woman in a halter top and tight pedal-pushers was sorting through the boxes. She looked up. Her blond curls had been dragged back into a ponytail. Frizzy pieces escaped all over, giving her a kind of golden halo. She had pale, freckled skin and bright-green eyes.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. Then she put her hand to Maureen’s forehead and sighed. “I guess it’s your turn,” she murmured, leading her by the hand up the porch steps. “Thank you for walking my daughter home,” she said as she opened the screen door.
Maureen’s mom wasn’t like the other moms I knew from school. She had a kind of teenager look, one that Gran wouldn’t like.
I looked at the baby sleeping on the lawn. She didn’t tell me to mind the baby, but I couldn’t just walk away and leave it. What if a giant dog snatched it up and ran off?
“Goodbye, Mrs. Sullivan,” I said, when she finally came back outside.
“Oh, goodbye,” she said to the inside of a cardboard box. Then she pulled out her head. “I hope you’ve had the chicken pox.”

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The Ice Chips and the Stolen Cup

The Ice Chips and the Stolen Cup

Ice Chips Series Book 4
also available: Hardcover
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This week's recommended reading lists
New Children's for the week of February 17th : New Kids' Nonfiction
Jordin Tootoo

Jordin Tootoo

The highs and lows in the journey of the first Inuit player in the NHL
also available: eBook Hardcover Paperback
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P.K. Subban

P.K. Subban

Fighting racism to become a hockey superstar and role model for athletes of colour
also available: Paperback
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Little Cloud

Little Cloud

The Science of a Hurricane
also available: eBook
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Willie O'Ree

Willie O'Ree

The story of the first black player in the NHL
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Tree Books

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New Children's for the week of February 10th : New YA
Blood Sport

Blood Sport

also available: eBook
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Easy Street

Easy Street

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Laundry on the Line

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Sports Lit

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New Fiction for the week of February 3rd : New Fiction
Evie of the Deepthorn

When I told Jeff that Lauren had said I should do my media class documentary on Durham, he told me it was a good idea. We were in the kitchen after school. He was making a peanut butter sandwich and I was still raiding the cupboards, looking for something better, without much hope of finding it.
It’s weird, but some days it is difficult for me to remember Jeff ’s face or voice. I know what he looked like — there are pictures everywhere — and I know what his voice sounded like, but it’s one thing to know something and another thing entirely to have that thing available to you, easily accessible, which you take for granted until it’s gone.
But on this day, for whatever reason, it wasn’t hard. He was right there in front of me, like he had never gone.
“It’s not a good idea,” I said. “Durham sucks.”
Jeff agreed that Durham sucked, but he said there were lots of ways I could do it, anyway. For instance, I could just set up the camera on a tripod in the centre of town and leave it running for twenty minutes.
Last year the documentary only had to be a maximum of seven minutes (maximum! ) and Mrs. Scala (now on maternity leave) baked cookies for the final presentations. If I could remember now who told me that media would be a cakewalk, I would egg their house.
“That sounds like it would be horrible,” I said to Jeff.
He said that it would be “conceptual,” and that I would seem “deep.”
It was a good joke, but I knew that Wright would never buy it. He wanted something with a “traditional” narrative and at least four cuts. At least, he had said. Bare minimum. And music, too. (We were supposedly being tested on our editing skills, but I wondered if he had foreseen himself watching twenty twenty-minute documentaries of twenty intersections.)
I also had my potential audience to consider.
“I want my documentary to be good,” I said. “I mean, at least okay.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“That’s your problem,” said Jeff.
Jeff stopped getting decent grades after middle school, even though he was probably the smartest kid I’d ever known. Or at least it sometimes seemed that way to me. His effort cratered after that. Or maybe it had never been very high to begin with, and it was just that school was asking more from him. He claimed that he didn’t care. That it wasn’t worth putting in the effort to do well, to be liked, to not to stick out. That he was fine with the way things were. Sometimes I believed him.
I’d heard Mom whispering to her friends on the phone that she thought he had “emotional problems,” but I always thought he was just misunderstood. That he’d find his way in some other fashion, although not as radically as he hoped. It was too easy to say he had problems and to leave it at that. If he had a problem it was that he wanted to turn the world to do his bidding, to fold it in half in order to solve a geometry question that only required drawing a line from one point to another.
“Why don’t you start with what you know?” he told me. “Isn’t that what they always say? ’Start with what you know’?” He had a mouth full of peanut butter and Dempster’s soft whole wheat and some of it flew out and landed on the counter. He reached his hand out past me, toward the sink, letting it hang mid-air, and I interpreted his motion and threw him the rag hanging around the faucet.
The problem was that I didn’t know what I knew.
According to an article I read a while back in the Durham Enterprise, Durham is the fastest-growing small town within two hundred kilometres of the city of Toronto: “small town” being defined as containing less than twenty thousand people and “fastest-growing” determined via an aggregate score of year-to-year population growth, that population growth relative to the previous year’s population, and relative growth of infrastructure.
After I showed the article to Jeff and told him that we finally had something to be proud of, he laughed and said that their criteria basically meant nothing. It was just a way to get people who live in Durham to feel like they’re important. Which they’re not, he said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Duh.”
But he looked at me like I was stupid and I knew then that I was, in a deep way, at my very core.
I was probably fourteen and I remember feeling that way all of the time.
It’s been two years since he died and I miss him a lot, enough that sometimes I pretend he’s with me, even to the point of making up conversations with him about what I have to do for school.
If Jeff were still around he probably wouldn’t be at home anymore; he’d be working at some crap job and living on his own somewhere far away, or he’d have figured his shit out and be doing some kind of mathematics or science degree at a university downtown. Or in another province, or country, or on another planet.
We were different in a lot of ways, but we had a lot of things in common, too. He wanted to get out of Durham by any means necessary.
So do I.

Here are some facts about Durham.
Durham, the municipality, counts about fifteen thousand residents. We have an arena, a hospital, three strip malls, a bus system, multiple hamburger places, two cemeteries, a newspaper, a Tim Hortons, a Pete’s Donuts, and a large chunk of real estate on Highway 89. We also have a single high school which is shared with all of the surrounding towns, including Saffronville, which is notable because students who live in Saffronville are often made fun of because it’s one of the few towns that is an even bigger hole than Durham. We take a lot of pride in saying so. (Saffronville: half an intersection; one decrepit grocery store; an off-brand donut place; three sneering teenagers on the main drag at all times, in basketball shirts without sleeves; scary dogs barking somewhere; an old man heavy in a torn white T-shirt lying on someone’s lawn, burping.)
In honour of our namesake, the late John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham, the high school is named Upper Canada Secondary School and the K–8 elementary school is Lower Canada Junior Middle School. Old Lord Durham was the one who drafted the report recommending the unification of the two Canadas (hardly rocket science) back in the heady days of BNA (British North America, for the uninitiated). The symbolism is idiotic. Not only because our great pride is in being accidentally named after a man who helped destroy French and Indigenous culture in the service of our British colonizers. The sports teams for both schools have the same name, the “Canadas,” which, if you’re following carefully, you know means that the full names of each team contains the semantically ridiculous repetition “Canada Canadas,” as in “Upper Canada Canadas.” No one actually says that, of course, because they’d sound like morons if they did (instead, they eliminate the first “Canada”), but it’s there, lurking underneath the scores on the morning announcements, cheers on Spirit Day, and the sentimental hoo-rahs in the Enterprise (“Bobby Booby, son of David and Liz Booby of Booby Auto, north Saffronville, scored the lone goal in the Canadas’ hard-working loss.”)
Barring some miracle, the only teams our teams will ever play are teams from Canada, and so in that light, “Canada Canadas” becomes even more meaningless, both humiliating and demoralizing at once. At least if we were the Badgers or something we could claim exclusivity until we met another team from podunk-nowhere with the same spirit animal: at least a badger is fearsome, at least there is some menace in that name. And what if, say, the Lower Canada Canadas did ever make it to a national tournament and ended up playing a team from Quebec? The Upper Canada Lower Canada Canadas vs. the legitimately Lower Canada Kanata Canadiens —?
The problem with doing a documentary on Durham is that teachers don’t usually like it when you’re too negative, even if you’re being realistic. I don’t know why. Maybe they get nervous about the world they are about to throw us into, and they’d like to keep us insulated from all of the shit we’re going to eat as soon as we get out.
But maybe it should be a documentary about how Durham is a hole and we are all trapped. Or about how I am going to get out of here somehow. Or about how if you live here for too long the hope in you dies and you become one of those walking corpses working at the Canadian Tire their entire lives. My cousin Peter told me last Thanksgiving that he saw an old friend of his there the last time he visited, and that when he said hello his friend looked right through him as he passed carrying a fresh shipment of lacrosse sticks. There are teenagers and there are capital-A Adults with serious jobs and in-laws and mortgages and everyone else is dead, dead.
Can I put that in a school project?
Let me do you a favour.
When you pass through the pines flanking Highway 89 on the approach to Durham you might feel light and cheerful driving in the sun, and when the town rises up in front of you, imagine that this is a place like any other, that we have lives here, that there is life, that in some haunted past or nostalgic future you might settle down in the sun and the grass and the asphalt and build a home and have children …
But please don’t be deceived — keep driving.

My best friend Walid told me that I should do the documentary on sex. I don’t know anything about sex — I mean, nothing first-hand — and he knows that. That’s the reason he suggested it as a topic. He is a dick. I said I wasn’t sure what that documentary would even be and he said, “Are you kidding?” and started thrusting his hips at a locker. “You could make it, like, a nature documentary.”
I told him to fuck off.
He said, “Okay, what if the documentary was about sex, but, like, actually in nature, with animals?” I thought that could be pretty funny. But I know even less about that than I do about human sex, which I only understand on account of all the human “nature documentaries” I have watched online. But, uh, that’s a topic I doubt that Wright would let me explore. And I’m not sure I’d want to, anyway.
I didn’t know what my documentary was going to be about, but I wanted it to be good. I wanted it to inspire the same kinds of feelings in others that my favourite movie, Evie of the Deepthorn, did in me. I wanted to make people feel like there was something urgent rising up out of them, something beyond themselves that was scary and insightful and beyond their control. I think it’s important for you to understand, too.

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The coffin was awkward to carry; the weight threw off the pallbearers’ balance, and their closeness to each other caused them to walk in a short, shuffle step. Jonathan was surprised by the weight; it seemed heavy, at first, but a few steps later, he wondered if maybe it was actually lighter than it should be. The wood was, after all, quite dense. But by the end she had been so thin, something he then tried not to think about. He decided that he had no basis for comparison. There was no reason to think the coffin was either heavy or light; experientially, it was exactly the weight all coffins he had ever handled weighed.

Jonathan tried to counterbalance by throwing one arm out to the side, but then thought having one arm flapping maybe looked disrespectful. Instead, he put it across his body and used it to help with the weight. The others struggled too. The natural burial field was riddled with little holes and clods of dirt. He wondered again why they hadn’t lifted it up on their shoulders. He was sure that’s what they should have done, but it was too late to do anything about it.

Then they were coming up on the hole in the ground. There were wide, canvas straps across it, the straps wrapped around a metal frame so the coffin could rest over the grave. The pallbearers walked on either side and stopped. A pallbearer opposite Jonathan shifted his grip, the coffin rocked and when it stopped, something inside kept moving for a moment. Jonathan tried not to think about that while they lowered the coffin into place.

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True Patriots



Claire gave the order. She could feel the gaze of her crew. Would she deliberately kill? She’d been captain for barely two months. Too junior. Not tested. And a woman.

Only minutes earlier, she had watched endless waves pound a small fishing boat, the spray and incessant snow rendering it invisible at times, despite the blazing cone of light from the helicopter above. Off the coast of Nova Scotia, the winter nor’easter that had paralyzed New England with two feet of powder retained enough of its fury to imperil any ocean vessel.

A kilometre away, the CH-149 Cormorant, shaking violently a few wave heights above the turbulent ocean, was trying to keep its searchlight fixed on the ship that bucked between mountains of water.

“It’s the MV Atlantic Mariner. Out of Boston,” the pilot said over the radio.

Claire squeezed the microphone dangling from the ceiling. “Captain O’Brien, do you see anyone on board?”

A moment of white noise and then, “There must be. Will advise.”

The sailor manning the radio on the bridge of the coastal patrol vessel HMCS Kingston, Petty Officer Second Class Sullivan, turned to Claire. “Maritime Command said that the vessel never acknowledged radio contact, ma’am.”
“They never asked for any help.” Lieutenant Wiseman, executive officer and second-in-command, brushed past in the tight space, as Claire sat in the captain’s chair.

“Doesn’t matter, XO.” Something’s not right, Claire thought.

“There’s no transponder signal,” Sullivan said.

“We’re not going anywhere.” My first rescue.

“It must have drifted.”

Wiseman nodded. “And it looks like a lobster boat anyway.”

“Isn’t lobster season here in the spring?” Sullivan kept his gaze on the radio’s lights and buttons.

“Agreed.” Claire leaned forward in thought. “There’s something weird about this. We keep trying.”

“They shouldn’t be out in this storm, ma’am,” said Sullivan. “How could they not have seen it coming?”

O’Brien’s voice crackled on the radio: “No one sighted. Do you want us to continue?”

Claire framed the distressed vessel in her binoculars for a moment, lowered them, then pointed to Wiseman. “Distance to target?”

“Weather’s interfering with radar accuracy.”

“Best guess.”

“Three thousand metres and closing, ma’am.” She noticed a new spike of stress in Wiseman’s voice.

Claire raised her binoculars, flicked some loose strands of hair out of the way, and continued looking at the tiny shaft of light blinking between shifting mounds of black water. My first chance to do something good. She’d wait it out. She grabbed the microphone again and squeezed the button. “O’Brien, this is the Kingston. Hold position. Continue the search. Advise when low on fuel.”

“Acknowledged.” A moment later, the pilot’s voice returned with a new edge. “There’s someone down there.”

Claire saw it, too. A single dark figure emerged from the bridge of the helpless vessel. The helo narrowed the spotlight until the person stood like an actor alone on a stage. The man — he walked like a man even at this distance — took a few steps and held what appeared to be a short pole.

Wiseman turned to her. “Vessel at two degrees starboard, ma’am. Range, one kilometre.” A change in the familiar background rustle told her that the six-person bridge crew had moved into a higher state of readiness.

She saw the fishing boat suddenly spring to life, with running lights bright. The boat swung toward the Kingston, appearing as a small supernova against the black of the frothing sea.

This was not a normal reaction. “XO, report,” she said. Wiseman watched the radar display for a moment. “Target approaching. Ten knots and accelerating.”

Don’t they want to be rescued? “Collision course?”

Wiseman turned to face her. “Roger, ma’am.”

Was the boat deliberately trying to collide with the Kingston? They were supposed to be on a rescue mission. None of the threat simulations during her training at CFB Esquimalt had ever foreseen this situation. She remembered what her instructor had said: When in doubt …

“Sound action stations,” she ordered.

A perceptible pause told her they were wondering if she was serious. Then the XO acknowledged her command. “Roger, ma’am. Sounding action stations.” Most of the crew was older than her thirty-one years, and she wasn’t sure how they would react to a new and untested officer in what might become a crisis.

The looping klaxon blared on the bridge and throughout the ship.

“Ship-to-ship.” She pointed to Sullivan.

“Ready, ma’am.”

She gripped the microphone: “Atlantic Mariner. This is the captain of the HMCS Kingston. We are here to assist you. Acknowledge.”

Only static crackled on the speaker.

“Repeat message every thirty seconds.”

“Aye aye, ma’am.” Sullivan scribbled the message on a small pad.

She didn’t have much discretion as the captain of a coastal patrol vessel. She needed permission from her superiors back in Halifax to use the Bofors 40-mm cannon that could annihilate the boat in one shot. With a long chain of command that went up to the minister of defence, she was unlikely to get it within a day. Until then, she could use the M2 0.50-calibre machine gun mounted to the starboard side of the bridge.

She had a single machine gun to defend the ship.

But was the fishing boat a threat? Its action was strange and unexpected, but she wasn’t sure if it posed a danger or if there was some other, more innocent explanation. Maybe the boat’s crew was merely trying to get closer to aid in their rescue.

Any threat situation had to meet three criteria. First, there was intent. The boat hadn’t threatened anyone. It seemed to ignore the helicopter with the blazing light.
“Let’s see if that ship is deliberately trying to ram us. Steer one three five.”

The helmsman repeated her command and swung the wheel.

She grabbed on to the overhead handle as the ship veered dramatically to the right, still pitched by wave after wave. She watched the fishing boat’s reaction.

“Midships,” she said. The light from the Atlantic Mariner dimmed for a moment, then quickly brightened again.
“Target is following our move, ma’am,” said the petty officer on the bridge, scanning the fishing boat from the bow.
So that’s intent, Claire thought. Or do they just want to get rescued? Why didn’t they acknowledge our hail or the helicopter hovering above them? Her indecision felt familiar: Should she pursue a law degree and satisfy her parents’ ambitions, or join the navy?

Simple. Keep it simple. Stick with the three criteria, she told herself.

The second criterion was proximity.

“Distance?” she called.

“Six hundred metres. Closing at thirty knots,” said the navigator. A quick mental calculation and she estimated that the boat would penetrate the ship’s three-hundredmetre safety perimeter in less than twenty seconds. Then she would consider it a mortal threat.

Seconds to decide.

O’Brien returned on the radio. “There’s something else, Kingston …

She watched the man and saw the pole shift until it pointed directly at the helicopter.

“RPG! RPG!” O’Brien’s voice sounded more angry than scared.
A flash from the ship ahead.

The rocket-propelled grenade ripped past the chopper as it banked sharply to the right, dipped, and accelerated away.
“Confirm RPG,” Claire said into the microphone, suddenly oblivious to the klaxon blaring in the bridge.

Captain O’Brien answered in short bursts over the radio. “RPG. Confirmed. Taking evasive action.” She could see the helicopter veer away from the boat at an extreme angle.

“Did they just fire at the helo?” said Claire to no one in particular, standing in disbelief.

Wiseman looked at the tactical screen in front of him. “They missed, ma’am. The helo is leaving at high speed. Recommend we do the same.”

She hopped back into the captain’s chair and glowered at the XO. The MV Atlantic Mariner now satisfied the third criterion: capability. They had a weapon that was a threat to the ship and her crew. One RPG could do serious damage to the bridge or the engines, or blast a hole below the waterline, potentially sinking the ship.

“Close up, M2,” she ordered. It was the only weapon she could command in the time that she had. You couldn’t stop the boat with the gun, but you could stop her crew. “Target their bridge. Now.”

She stared into the XO’s eyes until he repeated the command.

The sailor hesitated for a second before answering “Aye aye, ma’am” over the commlink. She could feel the gaze of the other crew on the bridge. Their unease about her qualifications as captain weighed on her like a physical force. Too young. Too inexperienced. Too female. She fought her drifting doubts. “Ship-to-ship,” she said to Sullivan.

He flicked a switch on the radio console. “Ready, ma’am.”

She yanked the microphone: “Atlantic Mariner, this is the Canadian warship HMCS Kingston. We are trying to assist you. You have fired on our helicopter without known reason. Do not approach this ship. Stop your engines, cease fire, and acknowledge, or we will fire upon you.”

She stood up again. “Range and speed,” she said with a distinctly more serious tone: one she knew the crew would notice.

“Four hundred metres. Thirty knots.”

She squeezed the mike in her hand. “I say again. Stop your engines and acknowledge or we will fire upon you.”

Only a few seconds before it got too close.

“Three hundred metres.”

The boat had just entered her exclusion zone.

“Any change?”

Wiseman said, “No, ma’am. Collision course. Recommend —”

“M2.” She heard herself gulp over the noise of the bridge. “Open fire.”

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Lion's Head Revisited

Lion's Head Revisited

A Dan Sharp Mystery
also available: Paperback
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Blood Money

PI Dan Sharp sat with his back to the window. Behind him, the Don River murmured quietly after the previous night’s storm. His office on the top floor of a warehouse import-export business had long been a sanctuary for him. Currently, however, it was feeling a bit crowded.
The three people facing him looked to be in their late twenties. The blond had multiple piercings and tattoos on her arms. The young man, slender and bearded, was agitated. The third, a quietly attractive woman, watched him with gentle eyes. They were waiting for his answer.
“You have no choice,” Dan said. “You have to report it.”
“But we want to keep it private. At least for now,” the man insisted.
His face was ravaged with red eruptions, like a perpetual adolescent. While his concern was evident, it wasn’t anything Dan could agree to.
“It can’t be private, Eli. This is a police matter. Kidnapping is a criminal offence.”
“It might be a hoax,” the pixie-haired blond, Janice, argued. “We don’t know for sure if a crime has been committed.”
“Do you want to take that chance?” Dan asked. No one answered. “Why do you think it might be a hoax?”
Janice frowned. “Because when they called, they never mentioned Jeremy. They just said they were raising money for missing children. When I asked how much, they said a million dollars.”
“They were probably playing it safe in case someone was listening in,” Dan said. “Your son has now been missing for three days. The police found no trace of him on the trails up on the mountain or anywhere near the shore where you were camping. You’ve already had one phone call and soon you’ll get another. The only choice you have to make is whether you’re going to pay the ransom or not.”
Eli shook his head. “But what if it’s someone who heard Jeremy was missing on the news and is trying to extort money from us? We need to buy ourselves time.”
“Time is a luxury you may not have, but whether the kidnapping is real or fake, you need to let the police know.” Dan hoped he sounded sympathetic.
“But so far they haven’t found anything useful,” Eli persisted. “We don’t have faith they can help us, to be honest.” “Look — even if you think the police aren’t doing their job, the best I can do is run a parallel investigation. I can’t interfere with what they’re doing. If you know something, you have to tell them.”
“But we don’t know anything!” Eli exclaimed.
Janice put a hand on his arm. “No, Dan’s right. We do know something — we know that we were asked for money.”
Eli threw his hands up in the air. “And where do we get this blood money from? Is there some government fund for kidnap victims that we can apply for? Or maybe I should just ask my boss for a raise of, oh, I don’t know — a million dollars?”
He wrapped his arms around his chest and slumped into his chair. Dan had had enough of his petulance.
“Eli, I appreciate that this is difficult for you, but what you do now could make all the difference in getting Jeremy back safely.” He turned to Janice. “Did they say anything else?”
“Yes. They said not to mention the call to anyone.”
“That’s to be expected. How’s your back, by the way? I understand you had quite a fall coming down the escarpment.”
“She nearly got gored by a bull, but a crazy man came out waving a tea towel and chased it away,” Eli interjected.
“That was after I fell.” Janice gave Dan a rueful smile. “The doctor said I’ll live. Though I’m not sure I want to right at this moment.”
“Janice!” The rejoinder came from the other woman.
“Please! Let’s have none of that.”
Her speech was clipped, almost a bark.
“Oh, go to hell, Ashley!” Janice snapped, then she turned suddenly contrite. “I’m sorry. I have no right to act like this.”
Ashley nodded. “It’s all right. You’ve been through a lot.”
The name suited her, Dan thought. Lithe and willowy, with hair the colour of ash wood.
She turned her eyes to him. “We don’t know what to do. We need you to advise us.”
“Thank you. The first thing you need to do is report the call to the police. That’s what I advise.”
“Then what?” Eli asked, still sulking.
“Then we start looking. For now, tell me everything that’s happened.” Dan picked up a pencil. “Start with anything irregular or noteworthy you recall in the days before Jeremy disappeared.”
Janice nodded. “There was something odd. I saw an older woman outside the house twice right before the camping trip. She seemed to be waiting for something. I went out to see what she wanted, but then Jeremy came out with Ashley and she walked away.”
“Did she say anything at all?”
“She called me Kathy.”
Dan glanced up from his notepad. “Kathy?”
“Katharine is my first name, but no one ever calls me that. I go by my middle name, so I don’t know how she’d know that.”
“Can you describe her?” Dan asked.
“She was plain. Mousy looking. The sort of woman you barely notice even if she’s right beside you.”
Dan looked at the pert blond with triple ear piercings. There was no chance of not noticing her.
“Was she short? Tall? Slender? Overweight?”
“Average height. Dumpy, but not huge. A little bulky. She had brown hair going grey.”
“Was there anything memorable about her face?”
“Her eyes were sad. That was my first thought.”
“Good. Anything else?”
Janice shook her head. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Okay. That’s a start,” Dan said. He turned to the others. “Did either of you see her?”
Eli shook his head. “No.”
“I did. Briefly,” Ashley replied. “She looked exactly as Janice described.”
“Any idea who she was?”
“None. But what sort of monster kidnaps a child?”
Janice caught her breath and turned aside. Her shoulders shook.
“Give us a moment,” Ashley said, putting an arm around her.
“I’m fine,” Janice said, regaining her composure. “You were asking what sort of person would kidnap a child,” Dan continued. “That’s the most important question we need to answer right now. Why would someone target you?”
“Definitely not for the money.” Janice rubbed away a tear. “I mean, do we look rich? I work in an art gallery on commission. Eli’s a designer. Ashley isn’t working at the moment. We barely scrape by.”
“Apart from the money. Is there anyone who would be likely to do such a thing? Someone who might bear a grudge against any one of you?”
“What about Sarah?” Ashley prompted.
“Jeremy’s a surrogate child,” Janice said. “Sarah was his birth mother.”
“And you suspect the birth mother? Why?”
Eli snorted. “She was bad news from the beginning.”
“We couldn’t know that,” Janice said, her voice icy.
“It was obvious,” Eli said. “I warned you right at the start.”

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Alone in the Wild

Alone in the Wild

A Rockton Thriller (City of the Lost 5)
also available: Hardcover
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