Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Issue 5 - April 2016


UNREASONABLE DOUBT

By Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press $18.95
As an avid mystery reader and reviewer I’m pleased to see author Vicki Delany’s latest Molly Smith novel, Unreasonable Doubt.
The writing feels real: a man arrives in Trafalgar after being exonerated for a murder conviction. 25 years, full sentence, no parole because he refuses to admit his guilt. And Walter Desmond returns with a big question to ask.
Strong material for a novel: pain, revenge, fear, 25 years of buried guilt, dishonesty, police incompetency. The town is fearful and the police perplexed.
Humans respond, react, take cover and excuse themselves and author Delany weaves a strong portrait of a town’s psyche coming to terms with justice delayed, perverted or delivered.
Good to see Constable Molly Smith on the job again.



THE VANISHING WIFE
By Barry Finlay
Keep on Climbing $19.95
The cover paints thriller. Instinctively you figure that all’s well at the end, so it’ll be the ride that counts. Count this a strong thriller debut from author Barry Finlay.
The pace grabs hold. Whether the mild-mannered accountant Mason Seaforth could actually pull of what’s at stake depends on the colour, the energy and dialogue of the story telling. The Vanishing Wife is convincing.
The mis-adventure begins in Flordia and ends up in Ottawa. Proof that a bit of murder and mayhem that’s not political can actually happen in Ottawa with an assist from a casino just across the provincial border.


The Vanishing Wife is an enjoyable read, leaving me to think that another one would do nicely.



MAVERICK PUBLISHER:
J. PATRICK O'CALLAGHAN
A Life in Newspapers
Edited by Ed Piwowarczyk with the collaboration of E. Joan O'Callaghan
Carrick Publishing $21.95
The name is your first clue: O’Callaghan, as Irish as it comes and I can’t recall ever meeting a dull one. Add Maverick to the title and you know the ride will be a free-for-all.
The life he writes about is gone. A life in newspapers is a rough-edged existence fueled by craft, deep digging and polished execution. A recipe gone from today’s press.
The first person writing is bold, blunt, rib-tickling with more than a touch of cut-throat adjective. Can’t provide an example because every time I think of one, another one pops up demanding a voice.
A memoir is expected to stir our own thoughts. A Life in Newspapers is a joy ride from half a century in Canadian journalism. It’s a story worth reading twice, once through just doesn’t quite afford Mr. O’Callaghan his just desserts.


WHAT'S LEFT BEHIND
By Gail Bowen
McClelland & Stewart $32.00
When you open a Gail Bowen novel, you’re aware you’re in the hands of an artist, a word, image building, story-telling artist.
Canada’s luck to have its fair share of these special authors. Some call them our A listers. I envisage these artist-of-words sitting around a round table of creative excellence. Gail Bowen sits in the centre. What’s Left Behind supports this image.   
Zack is Regina’s new mayor. A referendum on urban growth is weeks away. The polecats turn ugly. The Kilbourn-Shreves are having a wedding. Greed, revenge and history collide into murder. There’s lots of collateral damage—innocence and conscience take a big hit.
A Bowen story grows from within the people, their strengths, love, hatred, fear and partnerships. The crime comes from within that core: all sorts of negative, self-serving energy fueled by greed and arrogance.  What’s Left Behind clearly offers a belief in humanity, despite our shortcomings. It is a must-read from this reviewer’s perspective. 



THE NIGHT BELL
By Inger Ash Wolfe
McClelland & Stewart $24.95
Inger Ash Wolfe is the pen name for the talented novelist, playwright and poet, Michael Redhill. Add a polished, insightful and top drawer mystery novelist to that list of achievements. Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef's fourth masterful adventure, The Night Bell attests to author Redhill/Wolfe’s creative genius.
The story comes complete with a map of Westmuir County and the small town of Port Dundas. Have your fun with figuring out the real location. But the map serves to alert you to the reality of a small town in semi-dignified repose stabbed with a profit-at-all-costs new development, Tournament Acres. It’s a "don’t buy", for the building is happening near the abandoned site of the Dublin House of Boys. (Seems there are a lot of golf courses vulnerable to this re-invention.)
The remains of boys appear close to the new homes. No names, no records, buried in the 1960’s on the Dublin Home, soon to be a golf course site. Hazel remembers it. She also remembers the disappearance of a girl: Hazel’s brother was a suspect.
Forty-plus years is a long time to bury evil, put it in one’s mental and emotional past and carry on. But remains have a way of opening wounds and reviving old horrors.
The Night Bell is the best of the four Micallef novels, each one growing in strength. This one not only tells a powerful story but gets under your skin as well. It delivers the emotional energy that can rock a small town, large town and city to it’s core. This reviewer wants another one. Hazel Micallef is a police procedural in a class by itself.


Monday, 15 February 2016

Issue 4 - February 2016

This month demonstrates that murder is just as active and devious in small town Canada as it is in our large urban crime cities. Prince Edward County and the Gulf of St. Lawrence seem especially attractive this month along with the various and interesting partnership dynamics between police partners, cops and spouses, cops and buddies. Humour appears to be an interesting ingredient this month.


SHROUD OF ROSES
By Gloria Ferris
Dundurn $14.99
A gentle country side wakes up to murder discovered in a closed down, left to rot, high school: a decomposed body in a school locker last used years before when the final graduating class had its fling.
Author Gloria Ferris has already charmed us with her frustrating and hormonally charged duo of Lockport’s chief of police, Neil Redfern and his on again, off again relationship with Bliss Moonbeam Cornwall. The name alone tickles the imagination.
The first body delivers a second and clearly Chief Redfern has some sort of crime wave in his small town. But it’s the adroit, blunt and down-right funny antics of his friend, lover and reluctant partner, Moonbeam that sends him for cover. She interferes, stirs the pot, sends the burghers of the town screaming for cover and triggers solutions.
This is a series made for entertainment. It’s edgy and more truthful than we might want to admit. The writing is sharp: the dialogue sets the pace which means trying to stay a page or so ahead of Ms. Cornwall. Shroud of Roses is about crime based on fear and revenge, storytelling that clearly states that human relationships cause pain, grim reality and sparks. As a hint to Dundurn, I’m ready for another Cornwall and Redfern dance of friction and fun.


THE PITY OF THE WINDS
By Robin Timmerman
Trafford Publishing $25.00
The Pity of the Winds is convincing tale of a small community coming to terms with the undercurrents of change. New jobs, money, self-serving characters, all inflicted on a rural atmosphere in the name of progress…whether they want it or not. 
An ideal opportunity for a young police officer in a small town cop shop arriving with a new wife desperately hoping for a new beginning.  
What better way to bring change than to answer the energy call. An obscure, windy corner is the testing ground for large wind mills that will produce power for the powerful. Local nature lovers and real estate hounds set up a battle that turns sour and leads to murder.
The conflict of an area is carefully drawn: young people leaving, the faithful desperately gripping the past. The characters and dialogue make the local atmosphere zing with energy and pain. The place may be hurting but it’s the people that strike the blows, defend the past and try the balance the two.
Author Robin Timmerman tells this story with compassion, astute word pictures of the beauty and its beastly side. It’s a business that spells death, hope and revolution.  I sketch and paint in Prince Edward County and author Timmerman does it justice. The Pity of the Winds is a strong debut. I’m reading her second novel, Season of Deceit and the author’s talent holds true: signs of a strong series with lots of room to grow.  

Update: just finished Season of Deceit and the signs of a strong series just got stronger.


JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND STEPS
By Madona Skaff-Koren
Renaissance Press $19.88
The title and front cover are teasers of a dynamite debut novel written with passion and reality about a soul trapped within her body and determined to survive and thrive. The setting and description of the amateur sleuth, Naya are edgy with dialogue that keeps the action moving and the tension mounting.
 Multiple sclerosis alters life. It creates a trap for Naya and her contact to the outside world is reduced to her computer. A life-line friend disappears. The police dismiss Naya’s concerns so she follows her own convoluted trail that places her life in danger.
What sets Journey of a Thousand Steps apart is the practical sense of awareness of the circumstances of a restricted life told with energy that permeates the dialogue, the action and the conclusion. There is no “why me” in this story, and the front cover illustrates that more than a few of those thousand steps are falls which require guts and focus to survive. Naya takes this journey and author, Skaff-Koren reveals the path in an enlightening and humorous way.


DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT
By Jen J. Danna with Ann Vanderlaan
Five Star $27.95
An auspicious debut, doubly so when two writers produce a story with such a seamless style: I couldn’t tell where Danna left off and Vanderlaan began. They further jumped the hurdle of announcing their intention to write a series. The hurdle for a first novel is sufficient challenge:  plot, setting, avoiding the traps of first novel urgency, characters and dialogue wrapped into a story that keeps the reader turning the pages. 
The occasional overdose of adjectives and the odd first novel telling us a bit too much is easily forgotten. If you want to be in on the ground floor of a startlingly dynamic point of view in a forensic based series, then Dead, Without A Stone To Tell It is a must read.
I admit to being a reluctant fan of forensic mystery stories: sometimes the science and the speedy results reach the conclusion with the collateral damage being the story. Not here. The relentless energy, both raw and compassionate, bridge the scientific gap of detachment and pathos. There is sudden action that stirs the guts, a real feel that puts the reader right in the midst of the characters, their jobs and their personal lives. 
A quick summary with the addendum, "read this debut": one human bone is found on a strip of backwater coastline near Boston Mass. which leads to multiple bodies buried one on top of another and a serial killer seeks revenge on the cop, Trooper Leigh Abbott and forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell who are out to stop the killing. And about 300 pages later I put down one of the best forensic mystery sub-genre pieces I’ve read in a while.


KNUCKLEHEAD
By Matt Lennox
Harper Collins $22.99
A different sort of almost anti-hero: Ashley Rosco, small town bouncer, frustrated body-builder, occasional muscle man for a small-time drug dealer. Add Ashley’s Achilles heel…his cousin Chastity.
Stir the pot…literally in some cases. Chastity disappears.  Best friend, Darren and his father lead Ashley down twisted, self-serving and increasingly dangerous roads which become more twisted and evil at each turn.
The tension is the grabber in Knucklehead. It feels like a circle growing smaller and tighter, fueled by testosterone, passion, bravado and loyalty. The explosion clock is ticking away page after page. For a novel grounded in deceit, drugs and punishment, the story is eloquently told and touched with both darkness and detailed compassion.  A character driven novel that is a winner.


SING A WORRIED SONG
By William Deverell
ECW Press  $24.95
It always seems the right moment to kick back, glass of Shiraz to hand and read another story featuring Arthur Beauchamp Q.C. Defence Council.  Talented author William Deverell always delivers a sharp-witted story.
Under oath, I must testify to being a fan of Beauchamp’s legal and romantic antics. If cross-examined as to why…it’s Deverell’s quirky and captivating use of words, his setting descriptions that place you right at the heart of the action, his witty dialogue juiced up with zingers both funny and caustic. 
Part one is a flash back to Arthur’s one and only shot at prosecution. The result is a fast moving, acid-tinged chess style courtroom drama that might be described as vintage Deverell. The later parts of Sing a Worried Song take us to the back road, pot aroma life of Garibaldi Island on the shores of the Salish Sea. Perhaps a cozy-ish moment from the Deverell pen? Poor Arthur nearly out portrayed by a gang of past colleagues short of funds, mechanics who struggle with fixing cars, a brief appearance as an attorney and a climax that is best enjoyed sober.
There’s always a touch of soft underbelly in Deverell’s writing. Sing a Worried Song asks: can justice delivered meet expectations with no collateral damage? A poignant question at the moment. And you’ll have to read Sing a Worried Song to find out what William and Arthur think. 


THE GODDAUGHTER CAPER
By Melodie Campbell
Raven Books  $9.95
The Goddaughter Caper: voted best tale by the inmates of the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home.
Author Campbell scores an all-star romp through Hamilton’s Hess Village’ up-market shops to the Burlington Bay chocked full of concrete shoes and decaying body parts and the latest economical and quiet funeral shady venture featuring cheap, imported pine.
The Goddaughter Caper is funny, zingers-a-plenty, coffins, pop-up dead bodies, and dialogue… the star of any Gino Gallo mystery. The atmosphere this time is a wedding in six weeks organized by her rookie cousin Nico.  The new funeral service struggles with bodies being delivered, picked up and re-delivered to another wrong spot.  Gino smiles at her fiancĂ©, her promise that “all that” has been left behind.
The real challenge in a series is to keep it approachable…we know the place, the people, but Campbell keeps it fresh…like reading a new book with hints of the past percolating in your memories.
The climax is a dead heat between one-liners and quips like: “I heard he died of heart failure.” “Two slugs from a .38 will do that.” And the climax for the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home goes south in a gasp of giggles.
The Goddaughter Caper, complete with pink poinsettias, is the best yet.  
“Sonamabeech!” Bring on another one.


ENTRY ISLAND
By Peter May
Quercus  $26.99 
Author Peter May’s Entry Island is one of the finest mysteries I’ve read in a while.  Scottish author May has written two award winning series: a Bejing detective, Li Yan, paired with the American forensic pathologist, Margaret Campbell, and the brilliant Enzo Files with Scottish forensic scientist, Enzo MacLeod.
Entry Island sees Detective Sime MacKenzie sent to Entry Island, 850 miles away from the Canadian mainland in the Gulf of St.Lawrence.
With an author of May’s standing you take it for granted that he gets it right: from a murder that has an obvious suspect that doesn’t make sense, an impeccably twisted plot that exposes the deep seeded emotional conflicts between French and English Canada, and the historical abuse that stranded immigrants desperately trying to arrive in Quebec and Montreal.
Entry Island takes us down a path that dregs up a painful past that forces conflicts between the detective’s job and his personal providence.
Author, May writes with grounded compassion linking the deeply engrained sense of place on Entry Island, the past and what future there might be for the residents.  In Entry Island, May takes the craft of words to an art and the result is a read that grips you and doesn’t let go. The writing gets under your skin.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Issue 3 - December 2015

Mystery and history often go hand in hand. Academic and amateur historians, who have taken to writing crime fiction, show how little human motivation and corruption has changed, even as they expertly transport us to another time and place.

Three historical crime novels are included this month’s reviews, ranging from the War of 1812 to post World War I and World War II. Two more books take us away to exotic locales, and the sixth makes us laugh as well as think. What better escape from Canadian winter.



COLONEL NICHOL AND THE MURDERED MAIDEN (A war of 1812 mystery)
By Cheryl MacDonald
Heronwood Enterprises
Trade paperback $19.95

This fictional series, debuting with Colonel Nichol and the Murdered Maiden springs from solid historical research by author Cheryl MacDonald, a War of 1812 historian with several nonfiction titles about this time to her credit. But can an historian create a historically accurate fictional tale about life, death and political intrigue featuring memorable people like Isaac Brock, John Brant, Tecumseh, along with the novel’s detective, Colonel Robert Nichol (1780-1824)?  In a word…yes.

Nichol served as the quartermaster-general of the Militia for Upper Canada and advised and was befriended by General Isaac Brock. He knew the territory, Port Dover, Amherstburg, Windsor and Detroit, the location of much of the action in the novel.

The writing rings true. But it’s a chorus of bells with sharp dialogue; a plot that will make you stop and think how little has changed in the past 200 years, and a setting that encourages you to ponder about the people who lived in Upper Canada in 1812.

Nichol has a sidekick, Wallace, a young man of mixed black and white ancestry. They make a good team and solve this obscure murder while the son of Joseph Brant waits in the guardhouse to hang.
Colonel Nichol and the Murdered Maiden demonstrate that Canadian history is alive, well and full of intrigue, death and resolution. And author MacDonald has put it in an entertaining, yet honest framework. I’m looking forward to the next one.



MATRONS AND MADAMS
By Sharon Johnston
Dundurn
Trade Paperback $24.99

Matrons and Madams is a fine example that life is the best mystery plot of all. Add a setting: a post WWI, Lethbridge hospital run by a female superintendent and on the other side of town, a legal brothel run by Nova Scotia trained teacher turned madam. A plot like that firmly puts to bed that great stories cannot be found in Canada.

Be it fiction, history or mystery, good storytelling is the art of weaving words into a tapestry of colour, texture, mystery, life and death. The weaver, in this case Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, the wife of Canada’s Governor General, has spun a determined tale that captures the essence of time, place and action with humour, compassion and guts.

British widow, Clara Durling takes on her duties at the Lethbridge hospital just as the vast collateral human damage of young, limbless soldiers arrive on her door step. Phantom limb crisis, blood poisoning, gas damage test her will as she demands cleanness, good food and better nursing while pissing off the male medial hierarchy.

On the other side of town, Canadian widow Lily Parsons arrives in Lethbridge to teach. She endures the tragedies that so often strike and becomes the Madam of a local brothel in order to feed herself and child.
And what a dynamic duo they become as together they respond to the highest rate of venereal disease in the province by opening the first clinic.

Be patient with the first few chapters while the context and circumstances lead these two firecrackers to Alberta. The reward is a story worth telling and a wickedly funny and poignant tale to read.  I will be first in line for this talented writer to bring more personal Canadian history to print.



A DEADLY VENTURE (A Max Dexter Mystery)
By Chris Laing
Seraphim Editions
Trade Paperback $19.95

Chapter one: no fooling around here. Max’s buddy, a local cop, is on the phone telling him that Max’s painter friend, Roger Bruce, is at the Barton Street jail on a charge of murder.

Max, the private eye with a limp and his gorgeous partner, Isabel are on the case.

The writing is fast, sharp with that rapid fire texture and gumshoe cadence. The setting post World War II Hamilton, complete with the Connaught Hotel, jars of beer at forty cents and an atmosphere that simply propels the story into that “I can’t put it down” category.
Max’s network is hard at it. High end waiters, war amp survivors selling pencils on the street corner, his cheap, with a heart of gold uncle reporter at the Spectator, all add to the inevitable but genuinely surprising climax.

What makes A Deadly Venture stand out? It’s fine story telling with no presumptions other than to entertain and turn the clock back to the days when the QEW was just open. Cities across the free world were picking up the pieces, and people were trying to create new lives with what they had left. Add the shadow of the local mob that are out to discourage Max and Isabel, this becomes a series to look forward to, one with staying power and a unique take on the historical mystery.

Winnner of the 2015 Kerry Schooley Award, Hamilton Arts Council



DEATH OF A BRIDE AND GROOM
By Allan J. Emerson
Five Star Publishing
Hardcover $27.95

Death of a Bride and Groom…yes, it’s a mystery, a police procedural, albeit with a force of three usually handling the mundane, small town mischief…it might also be a cozy but certainly one I’d label as a cozy on steroids. Other than that, it’s an awarding winning first novel waiting for the spotlight.

Above all, it is a cleverly plotted story where the solution is the result of old fashioned digging, talking to people, provoking them, reading the signs and putting the pieces together wrapped in some very funny writing. The action is sharply drawn and the imagery convincing.

Author, Allan Emerson achieves this and more with finely tuned dialogue, creating a sense of place with a few words that trigger the imagination along with a touch of the theatre of the absurd wrapped in humour. And occasionally the humour is the “slap the armchair and laugh out loud” variety.

Honeymoon Falls, B.C., a local famous author is found in full bridal attire on top of a wedding cake float, dead, accompanied by her equally dead ex-lover. A thus begins the tale of public embarrassment, town council interference, nosy, persistent media, a frazzled local cop with two of the three stooges along to help. It’s funny but the intent is serious and ugly. The success lies within the story telling’s exposure of secrets and half-truths.



THE DIAMOND CAPER
By Peter Mayle
Alfred A. Knopf
Hardcover $24.95

A diamond caper maybe a reader’s best friend. Add time spent in Provence, a healthy splash of wines that would leave a credit card in cardiac arrest, had it not already suffered palliative care from first class flights, shopping in Marseilles, and parties to end parties and you have another successful Mayle novel.

The Diamond Caper is an amusing tale to be taken while resting in a hammock, on a deck, gentle waves close by and something bubbly to lubricate the page turning. Author Mayle plots a crime the way he brings Provence to life. Descriptions set the scene with an elegant buzz while pricy estate owners are removed of their diamond treasures. It’s gone on for too long, even the insurance companies are complaining.

Along come a pair of amateur sleuths who can always be tempted to solve a crime if the champagne is chilled just so and the menus are at least Michelin two stars.  There is a gently lingering taste of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. The Diamond Caper is the fourth in this Caper series, all worthy of your attention with an eye to some innocent escapism under the summer sun.



THE PRINCELING OF NANJING
By Ian Hamilton
House of Anansi Press
Trade Paperback $19 95

If you enjoy story-telling told in a frank format using a maze within a labyrinth enriched by a conundrum that can kill, then Ava Lee’s seventh tale is one you’ll not put down. I classify The Princeling of Nanjing as one of those grip tight novels that makes one read “just one more chapter” and you discover it’s 3am.

The novel is built on complicated webs artfully woven into clear, magnetic story-telling. I wrote in an earlier Ava Lee review that she was a character we all could use at one time or another.

Ava is in Shanghai for the launch of a new fashion line.  Xu, an invited guest is hesitant to attend this champagne and glitz evening.  Ava learns that Tsai Lian, governor of Jiangsu province and a princeling, is pushing Xu to enter the drug business. Ava, with the memories of Uncle in her soul, sets out to discourage this Princeling as the vicious web reaches the peak of political corruption.

Author Ian Hamilton delivers the intrigue within complex and relentless webs in high style and once again proves that everyone, once in their lives, needs an Ava Lee at their backs.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Issue 2: November 2015

Don read his first mystery, the Sign of Four, when he was seven, and struggled to accept that Sherlock Holmes was not real until he was ten. He still harbours suspicions that the pipe smoking sleuth still walks the streets of London.

THE MYSTERY CORNER AT THE D.D.

The mystery corner at The Different Drummer is the place to find the mystery that goes beyond the pot boiler today…gone tomorrow. These shelves are like that special closet we all read about as kids. It’s where you find the best in Canadian, British, European and American authors, the ones you read, let settle in your treasure bank and return to. It’s the books your friends borrow and you remember to retrieve. Authors with leading-edge plotting, dialogue that feels like a conversation you’re in the midst of and setting that places you into the action.  The Mystery Corner at the Different Drummer: fine, fictional story telling in the mystery genre.

Don will be haunting our shelves to read and review a selection of mystery he hopes you will enjoy. He reviewed for the Hamilton Spectator for eight years, continues with freelance reviewing for Canadian and foreign publishers. In 2012 he won the coveted Derrick Murdoch award from the Crime Writers of Canada for his contribution to Canadian mystery writing. You may also see his landscapes on our walls as he organizes the Different Drummer’s local artists on our wall initiatives. His work can be found at www.dongraves.org. You can reach Don at donald.graves67@gmail.com



MATHEW’S TALE
By Quintin Jardin
Headline
Trade Paperback $22.99
eBook $6.99


Author, Quinton Jardine, Scotland’s gift to the best in mystery writing has branched out from his awarding Bob Skinner and Oz Blackstone series into the rapidly growing sub-genre of the history mystery. Storytelling with mystery at its heart, before the days of forensic delights. And Mathew’s Tale is one of the finest stories in this genre that I’ve read in some time.

1818, Carluke, Lanarkshire, a young, battle scared veteran of the Battle of Waterloo returns to his county, physically damaged, emotionally wounded and matured beyond his twenty plus years.

Author, Jardine’s tale is  a tough, but delicate rendering of the Scottish landscape at the cusp of the industrial age of the steam engine, the new risks and opportunities for the young choking against a new Lord’s abusive rule.

Jardine’s palette is colourful: power, deceit, passion, manners that disguise the pain beneath and justice perverted and justice prevailed. Mathew’s Tale is story telling at its raw and compassionate best. The writing gets into the very fabric of a society being dragged into a destiny of change. Mathew’s Tale is an award winner.



THE LAWS OF MURDER.
By Charles Finch
Minatour Books.
Hardcover $29.99

London, 1876, and proof that Sherlock Holmes no longer enjoys a monopoly on private detection in the glorious, deceitful, grubby and high risk city of Victorian London.

Charles Lenox, upper class, newly wed, newly retired member of Parliament has returned to his first love…detection, this time as a partner in a private agency.

The love, hate relationship with Scotland Yard is alive and well as the Yard seeks out the ‘under the table’ help from Lenox. A Yard Inspector is found dead in Regent Park. The clues unfold in a cornucopia of Sherlockian gold:  An old wound, an untraced boat, a mysterious convent in a row of gilded town homes, one of which is occupied by an aristocrat who remains one step ahead of the law.

The writing is sharp and compassionate and stirs memories of Anthony Trollope and Dickens…you are there in the parlours, back streets and shipping yards of London. Atmosphere, clues and climax mix with life behind the velvet sitting room curtains keeps you turning the pages. A long and successful series that sets the standard.



BLOOD WILL OUT.
By; Jill Downie
Dundurn
$12.99

Blood Will Out is the third and the best so far in this series Featuring Moretti and Falla in the Channel Islands. Author, Jill Downie, writes with poise, setting a puzzle worth reading featuring characters that come off the page with a wide range of intent and deceit. The setting sparkles with detail: the characters move with ease. Surrounding this award winning writing is sharp and insightful dialogue.

D.I. Ed Moretti and his partner Kiz Falla investigate a suicide. But is it as simple as that or is it an outbreak of vampirism perhaps fueled by a local playwright who is writing a play about vampires. Will the murderer attack again? Why and when? The answers take skilled detection, s revealed by author, Downie, who weaves us through a complex network of truth and lies.

Blood Will Out is a satisfying read that teases one to check out Daggers and Men’s Smiles and A Grave Waiting, the first two in the Moretti and Falla series. Makes you wish for the fourth. Downie is a strong example of why Canadian mystery writing takes a back seat to no one.




BEARWALKER ALIBI.
By: Jake Doherty
Carrick Publishing
Trade Paperback $14.95
eBook $4.99

Bearwalker Alibi is a story crafted to grab and hold your interest and compassion on a variety of levels. Author, Jake Doherty, a reporter, editor and publisher has found that the ink still pulses with a fierce intensity with this startling new novel. If the jury values a good story, then Bearwalker Alibi will find its way into an awards circle.

Investigating the powerfully real dynamic between “white-man’s law” and “the driving cultural spirit that guides First Nation’s justice”, author, Doherty tells a profoundly moving story about the dramatic clashes over the systemic abuse of First Nations children, its lifelong pain, the ravages of PTSD and the terrifying veil of evil of lurks within the Bearwalker’s curse.

While fictional, Bearwalker Alibi illustrates the gulf between punishment and redemptive healing and the dark corners where PTSD thrives.  Scenes that grip and don’t let go, forceful dialogue and an ending that makes me hope that the journey of Dr. Mary Fraser and Fergus Fitzgerald has just begun.





A KILLER NECKLACE.
By Melodie Campbell and Cynthia St-Pierre.
Imajin Books
Trade Paperback $19.74
eBook $4.99

Small town, Toronto connections, gorgeous women, wall safes full of real jewelry worth killing for, and house gutted by fire and a body.  Two female, amateur detectives with two authors who know how to plot, feed clues, create atmosphere, offer spicy and spiky dialogue and you have A Killer Necklace, a first rate mystery tale with laughter that could kill you. A Killer Necklace is already on the Amazon Best Sellers list. Guess who wore the jewellery.

The quaint town is Black Currant. Gina, a trendy, outspoken, action destined, TV weather reporter arrives, ready to prepare for her wedding with the support of local Becki. They plan a visit to check out the shower location, a gingerbread, elegant old home in the core of Black Currant. Instead they find a body at the bottom of the cellar stairs. Now, there are men in the novel. Gina’s about to be new husband has a secret life in the Canadian secret services that he’d rather no one knew about. Becki’s husband is the local cop with brains.

It’s the edgy story telling that pulls you in. The pacing is sharp, quick and very funny, a good combination for a mystery that is hard to put down. But the special ingredient is an ending I sure didn’t see coming. It’s an interesting twist on when is justice done and anymore, and I’d be a plot spoiler. Gina and Becki and Campbell and St-Pierre make a pretty good team.

From the Files

STINKING RICH.
By Rob Brunet
Down & Out Books, 2014
Trade Paperback $20.69
eBook $5.66

Stinking Rich, a debut novel by Toronto author, Rob Brunet has more twists and turns than a mad dash to an outhouse in the pitch black night. And when that yester-year’s facility blows up, you know you’re in for a fast and deviously funny summer read. The Kiwarthas will never be the same again.

A young, less than successful, small time crook figures he’s hit it big when he lands a job tending a pot farm for a backwoods biker gang whose members are full bellied, short of temper, eager to fight battles with pre-determined results. What happens next is a summer chase with adroit dialogue, caustic descriptions and a plot that keeps you reading.

What makes Stinking Rich stand out from the usual escape is the skilful pacing that force a growing crew of misfits into deeper waters, hair-raising schemes and a climax where each convoluted strand falls into its satisfying space. And did I mention that in the heat of a pot moment the wise words of Iggy the iguana turn out alarmingly astute.

Stinking Rich, fun summer read with a touch of sarcasm and hint of truth. Hope there’s another one.



These reviews may be used for promotion at the discretion of the author.
For information about sending a book for review, contact Don at: