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Shelf Talkers: The Mystery Edition

There’s probably been research done on this, but I think it’s a well-established enough truth as to not require footnoting: winter is the perfect time of year for mysteries. Whether it’s the punishing cold, the latent isolation, the stark quality of the light through the skeletal trees, the barren, dark ground... it’s easy to imagine the world littered with crime scene tape and evidence tags, mysteries lurking in the shadows, in the seemingly endless twilight.

As a result, it’s likely no accident that many of the best mysteries in recent memory are Scandinavian in origin.

And, it has to be said, Canadian.

While readers likely need no reminder, the recent success of CTV’s Cardinal (based on Giles Blunt’s Forty Words for Sorrow) alerted many viewers to the high quality of homegrown crime fiction.

Which is—as you might suspect—a subject dear to the hearts of Canada’s independent booksellers, who have eagerly weighed in with their own recommendations for the waning days of winter.

Bundle up—you’re in for a chilling night.


The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)

The Pick: Sing a Worried Song, by William Deverell

In Sing a Worried Song, the sixth novel in the Beauchamp series, Deverell revisits a murder case 30 years in his detective's …

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On Our Radar: The Mystery Month Edition

Book Cover Blood Red Summer

"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books from all around the Internet and elsewhere. This month we've had fun finding books that fit our May editorial theme, which is Mystery. (And while we're on the subject, don't miss our amazing Crime Fiction Virtual Roundtable)



Blood Red Summer, by Wayne Arthurson

A bestselling book this week in Edmonton:

Métis journalist Leo Desroches has just been released from jail. Fortunately for him, he is re-hired at the paper to write a popular column about crime. It’s summer, the city is hot and buzzing with mosquitoes and it’s on track for a record number of homicides. Called to the scene of an apparent overdose of a young Native man in the inner city, Leo witnesses some rocks falling out of the body bag, and he picks them up. At first he believes they are crack cocaine, but discovers that the rocks are really rough diamonds. As he digs deeper into the story, he finds that the victim was a highly trained mudlogger at one of the new diamond mines in Canada’s High Arctic. Leo gets dragged into a deadly conflict between the mining companies and a murderous Native street gang, who are fighting for control of t …

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Crime Fiction Virtual Round-Table

Book Cover A Language of Secrets

What happens when you gather eight of Canada's most exciting authors of crime and detective fiction to take the pulse of Canadian crime fiction today? Among the discussion topics: Is CanCrime a genre and how do we define it? What writers served as literary inspirations? How is one affected by writing about violence and brutality? And so much more, including the authors' answers to the essential question: What books are you excited about right now? Our participants' enthusiasm for books and literature is palpable and will no doubt spread like, well, a crime wave. 


49th Shelf: In 2014, we talked to critic Sarah Weinman about the possibility of “CanCrime,”—the notion that Canadian crime fiction might be a genre unto itself. Sarah had theories on the subject, but she hadn’t developed them entirely. What are your thoughts?

Hilary Davidson: That’s such a tough thing to quantify, and my answer is going to be based on—and biased by!—the authors I’ve read (there are many I haven’t read yet). But to me, CanCrime explores grey areas. It’s not about easily identifiable villains and heroes; there’s more shading and nuance. There’s a lot of thought given to the psychological life of all the characters. I know Sarah mentioned empathy, and I think that …

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Holey Tales: 7 Literary Sleuths Are on the Case for Mystery Month

For a few weeks earlier this year, a mysterious tunnel in Toronto captured the nation's imagination. There is something about a hole in the ground that suggests infinite possibility, an empty space into which all kinds of stories can be projected. A point that is proven by the seven writers who responded to our Hole in the Ground Challenge for Mystery Month. These writers' task was to use a mysterious hole as a starting point for a mystery and to put their literary detectives be on the case. The hole's specifics—where, what, and why—would be determined by the literary universe in which their detectives exist, providing our readers with an idea of what to expect from these writers' new novels, and the detectives themselves with a bit of an extra-textual challenge. 

The results are wildly diverse, a lot of fun, and make for some excellent short reads. 


The Corpse With the Sapphire Eyes

A Hole in the Ground, by Cathy Ace

It all began just before 8:00 AM when I looked out of my office window from the school of criminology at the University of Vancouver. See a group of undergrads standing in a circle peering at the floor? Chances are something’s up. Sipping lukewarm coffee, I opened my window to hear what was bein …

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The Recommend: May 2015

Most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Steve Burrows, author of the birder mystery, A Siege of Bitterns; Gail Bowen, author of the Joanne Kilbourn Shreve mysteries; Julie Joosten, author of the poetry collection Light Light; Diana Davidson, author of the historical fiction novel Pilgrimage; and Steve Stanton, author and former president of Canada's national association of science fiction and fantasy authors.


Steve Burrows picks The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany, by Graeme Gibson

"As symbols and muses, omens and deities, birds have always been an inspirational part of the human experience. Graeme Gibson’s book is a fascinating overview of the many varied forms the relationship between birds and humans has taken throughout the ages. But this book is more than just a celebration of the positive. It examines the entire spectrum of the human connection with birds, and provokes sober reflection at times. Some of the entries are profoundly moving, even disturbing, b …

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Steve Burrows on Birds and Books: The Stuff of Life

Book Cover A Siege of Bitterns

Steve Burrows' first book in the Birder Murder Mystery series is A Siege of Bitterns, which was published this spring to terrific reviews. It's the story of Inspector Domenic Jejeune, whose birding skills come in handy while solving crimes on England's Norfolk coast. Outside of murder mysteries, birds have played a big role in Burrows' life, through his nature writing and also as a hobby. In this guest post, he shares the pleasures of birding right in one's own backyard, and suggests that birds and literature are a natural fit. 


When you think about it, there aren’t many things you can do for free while sitting in a chair that will transport you to another world. Reading fiction is one. Watching birds is another. To sit and watch the activity at backyard feeders is to enter a realm in which there will be much that is familiar to readers of great fiction. There are triumphs and tragedies, feuds and collaborations, rewards and injustice. In short, the stuff of life—all played out against a backdrop of suet and seed. But other story elements exist at the bird feeders, too, those that make us question, as all good fiction does, what we think we know, and what we hold dear.

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On Our Radar: Morissette, Nakamura, Shin, Freedman, and Burrows

"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books in a multitude of genres from all around the Internet.


New Tab by Guillaume Morissette 

From Vicki Ziegler's review at Bookgaga:

"Morissette’s quietly witty novel is set in up to the moment Montreal and traces a year in the life of 27-year-old Thomas, a disaffected video game designer looking languidly and yearningly, but not without an undercurrent of genuine determination, to change career and personal directions. Against a blurred-around-the-edges backdrop of dodgy accommodations, fleeting and vague relationships, substance over-consumption (it’d be harsh to call it abuse because it seems so tinged with a kind of innocence), Thomas makes his way. The reader peeks over Thomas’ shoulder at email and Facebook chat clues as to how he progresses, professionally and emotionally."


Peach Girl by Raymond Nakamura and Rebecca Bender

From Charis Cotter's review at the National Reading Campaign:

"Nak …

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