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Some great Canadian mystery reading during the lockdown


We’re changed: no more enjoying the Brott Festival live. No more

cheering the Ti-Cats. No more trips to Toronto’s Broadway.

Isolation because the Premier lives by “do what I say, not as I

do”. Matters will improve, so keep the 6 feet away, mask drill.

I’ve enjoyed the TV, the riveting daily CBC updates. I enjoy

counting the “dah” sounds escaping from camera frightened

health experts. Library return slots accept. Some local stores

offer curb side pickup. I’m using some online book sellers; find

what I like and see if they can get it. The last time I used an

online service, I paid up front and 7 weeks later no delivery.

Covid 19 has been particularly frustrating for Canadian

publishers and authors. The traditional book launch in stores and

libraries is gone. It’s especially hard for our local authors. I’ve

chosen 4 Spring publications, each one a potential award

winning piece of writing. So, in no special order.


by. Mike Knowles.

ECW Press.

Hamilton author, Mike Knowles has written seven previous

novels, each one with a unique preceptive on the Private

Detective. P.I. Sam Jones’ six year search for a missing child

ends with gunshots in a basement. Jones couldn’t admit that all

those years ended with nothing to show for it. He’s in the

basement of his life now with no prospects until he receives a

note on a bathroom door—a second chance for redemption.

Thirteen words from a troubled young girl leads Jones from a

picturesque Ontario town to big city corners best left dark.

The dialogue reveals the intense and awkward challenge for both

P.I. and victims. Settings are rich with the reality of how young

people can lose their way, feel trapped and sink. Jones is

compassionate yet blunt with the black edged pain that drives

young people to do what they do. All of Knowles seven books

are a path to ‘Running from the Dead’ which is the best private

detective novel I’ve read in some time. A second read offers new

ways of enjoying yourself. This one deserves an award.

A DEVIOUS DAME… A Max Dexter Mystery,

By; Chris Laing.

Author. Chris Laing knows his Hamilton in the forties, where to

eat, how to talk, captures the essence of post WW11 Ontario city

with a growing industry, local mafia, and where in the east end to


It’s 1948, Spring in the Hammer and private eye, Max Dexter and

his easy-on-the eyes partner, Isabel O’Brien set out to help a

young, left in the streets to survive kid, abandoned by his mother

Ida Lucas. A hostess, slick and well dressed, she does well to

keep the local gents happy. Hamilton’s new mob boss gets

wrapped up in the search in not a productive way.

I’ve read each Laing story. He really does know his town. After

the fist novel, I challenged him about missing out The Chicken

Roost only to learn that this well researched author knew that the

Roost arrived 2 years after this adventure. So he keeps writing,

keeps the Hammer a thriving action hub for post war Canucks

seeking a thrill and paying the rent. Maybe I’ll get my seat at the

Roost in the next one.


By; Ross Pennie.

ECW. $19.95

Hamilton author, Dr. Ross Pennie has written another page turner

in what is likely the most challenging sub genre in the mystery/

crime library. He writes from experience as a doctor specializing

in infectious disease with medical accuracy wrapped into riveting

fiction through relationships, setting, dialogue, that thin line

between adventure, crime and compassion. The result is author,

Pennie at the top of his game with each novel stirring more

deeply than the one before.

Pennie jostles 2 stories in Bitter Paradise with a clever conclusion

woven to satisfy the reader. Dr. Zol Szabo and a partner do

battle with a vaccine resistant polio that is striking Hamilton with

deathly force. The intensity is palpable and reminiscent of the real

life Covid 19.

Among the immigrant pool rushing for a new life in Hamilton is

trauma surgeon, D. Hosam Khousa and his family. This once

prominent doctor turns to cutting hair to survive. The collapse

and race towards death begins when another Syrian is slashed to

death in the barbershop.

The paths of this story merge while they drive toward their own

destiny. It’s polished writing that drives the reader to ‘read just

one more chapter.’ I gladly fell into that trap and now await the

next story in this riveting medical mystery series.


by; Iona Whishaw

Touchwood . $16.95

One of Canada’s leading mystery story-tellers has published her

7th novel, “A Match for Murder”. Her complex plots with unique

twists and turns once again offers readers a compelling voyage

into setting, dialogue, character and that elusive quality called,

“I’ll just read another chapter.” Each novel reaches out to the

reader based on a post WW11 young woman character, Lane

Winslow who leaves England for a remote, tiny village of King’s

Cove in northern B.C.

A Match for Murder finds her new husband, Inspector Darling

celebrating marriage to Lane in Arizona. In the midst of

celebration Lane is witness to a murder. Despite the honeymoon

setting both Lane and hew husband find themselves caught in a

complex and guilt ridden murder. All the while, back in King’s

Cove, newly minted Sergeant Ames investigates vandalism that

is a cover-up for a crime much more dense and evil.

The story is vintage Whishaw. From plot to dialogue and setting,

the story weaves a thoroughly complex yet elegantly portrayed

mystery from post WW11. “Just read another chapter” and you’ll

discover what I mean.

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