Thousands of Canadian-authored kids and YA books


Shiver Me Timbers: A Little Murder with My Fall

Helen Walsh’s debut novel Pull Focus—a feminist thriller set behind the scenes at an international film festival—publishes September 7 in North America and October 7 in the UK.  

Autumn’s long shadows cut across the darkening sky. A director frames a close-up shot of a woman in an armchair clutching a book, legs curled up beneath her, half-drunk glass of Pinot Noir on the side table. The crackle of the fire makes her jump, as her eyes dart from the page out the bare window, and back again. What lurks outside? Waits upstairs? Under the bed, perhaps. . .

Is there anything more delicious than a chill up the spine as nights grow longer and shadows lurk?

Here are 10 novels full of crackling tension that crowd my beside table or will soon, once their publication date arrives.


Everything Turns Away, by Michelle Berry

I was a film producer living half-time in lower Manhattan when September 11th blew up life as I knew it. Cataclysmic events shake our very foundation, prompting us to look at the world, and those closest to us, through greater clarity …

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First Class Thrillers

Robyn Harding's latest novel is The Perfect Family, which is up for giveaway as part of our Summer Books list right now! Enter for your chance to win this book and others. 

Canada has no shortage of literary heavyweights, but in recent years a crop of talented crime-fiction authors has come to the fore. This country produces some of the best mysteries and thrillers around, with smart, twisty plots; complex (and sometimes unlikable) characters; and settings from small-town Canada to the Harlem Renaissance to an island off the coast of Tanzania.

Besides international superstar authors like Louise Penny, Shari Lapena, and Ashley Audrain, here are some delightfully devious thrillers released this year.


Bath Haus, by P.J. Vernon

In this sizzling read, Oliver Park, a recovering addict, visits a gay bathhouse unbeknownst to his prominent trauma-surgeon husband. What happens inside sets off a runaway train of thrills as Oliver tries to protect his perfect life and outwit a killer. The tension in this one is off the charts.


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If You're Going to Read Just ONE Book This Summer....You Will Be Making a Terrible Mistake

If you're going to read just one book this'll be making a terrible mistake! Because with all the amazing new books out right now, you should be probably reading at least two, or even eighteen. And so to get you started, check out this spectacular list of gripping titles that will make for perfect reads for the deck chair, the hammock, the dock, the beach, under a tree, on a city rooftop—wherever you're getting your summer on.  


When the Flood Falls, by J.E. Barnard

About the book: With her career in tatters and her marriage receding in the rear-view mirror, ex-RCMP corporal Lacey McCrae trades her uniform for a tool belt, and the Lower Mainland for the foothills west of Calgary. Amid the oil barons, hockey stars, and other high rollers who inhabit the wilderness playground is her old university roommate, Dee Phillips. Dee’s glossy life was shattered by a reckless driver; now she’s haunted by a nighttime prowler only she can hear. 

As snowmelt swells the icy river, threatening the only bridge back to civilization, Lacey must make the call: assume Dee’s in danger and get her out of there, or decide the prowler is imaginary and stay, cut off from help if the bridge is swept away.

Why we're taking notice: This one won the 2016 Unhanged Arthur A …

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R.J. Harlick: More Than "Good Enough"

Purple Palette for Murder is the latest title in R.J. Harlick's Meg Harris Mystery series, a perfect title to cozy up with as the weather turns cool. In this guest post, Harlick writes about why she chooses to set her books in Canada and recommends some of her favourite writers who do the same. 


I grew up reading anything but Canadian books. The majority of novels I studied at my Toronto high school were British and American. I can only remember one Canadian novel, Hugh MacLennan’s Two Solitudes. Basically, my school training taught me that Canadian literature wasn’t good enough. When it came to reading for pleasure I focused only on those novels from afar, including "The Greats" by British, American and Russian authors. Popular fiction was either American or British. I studiously avoided the Canadian book sections in bookstores.

It wasn’t until I attended the Humber School for Writers’ summer workshop that I finally discovered that Canadian writing was indeed worth reading. Meeting real live Canadian authors, in particular my workshop leader, Nino Ricci, enticed me to spend a few of my hard-earned dollars on their books. And lo and behold, I discovered they were just as good as any books by foreign authors. I discovered I enjoyed reading about places …

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Caterina Edwards on Lady Sleuths

Book Cover The Sicilian Wife

Truly, every season is the perfect season to curl up with a murder mystery, but there is something irresistible about gripping a gripping book in summer. In this list, Caterina Edwards, author of The Sicilian Wife, gives us the lowdown on Canada's most compelling lady sleuths, and a list of great summer reads to curl up with. 


What turns the reader of a mystery into a fan of a series? Compelling plots, good prose, and an evocative setting? Suspense? Certainly, but for me the ranking of these elements depends on my mood. What never changes is the need for an appealing sleuth.

I began reading a number of Canadian mysteries featuring female sleuths only after I finished The Sicilian Wife and had created Marisa De Luca, the newly appointed police chief of a station house in Alcamo, Sicily. I say "created," but the experience of writing Marisa was more discovering than making. She sprang from my subconscious fully formed; I simply had to pay attention. But when I considered continuing Marisa’s story in a sequel, I needed to figure out what worked and what didn’t. 

A detective who has her own series must be distinct in her talents, tastes, sidekicks, and stomping grounds, while sharing the characteristics of curiosity and foolhardiness. The genre demands she put …

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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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What’s So Relaxing About Murder Anyway?

Book Cover Dying for Murder

We do so love the idea of a zoologist sleuth that we included Suzanne F. Kingsmill's Cordi O'Callaghan on our Canadian literary sleuth list last December. And O'Callaghan is back in a new installment, Dying for Murder, in which her attempt at a relaxing getaway to a research station off the coast of South Carolina leads her into another scene of death and chaos, presenting new mysteries to be solved. It seems that murder and relaxation do not go hand-in-hand.

Or do they?

In this guest post, Kingsmill fills us in on the merits of relaxing with a good thriller.  


No murder mystery writer would ever dream of lulling their readers into a total sense of relaxation, or—horrors!—putting them to sleep. Tension, exhilaration, and suspense are the hallmarks of a good mystery. The idea of “relaxing with a good book” is a well-worn one, but a bit of a misnomer for a mystery, where tension should be running high, the reader on the edge of her seat. And then the author does a slam-dunk, ending each chapter with a cliffhanger, so that you definitely can’t turn off the light and go to sleep, even though it’s 2 a.m.

In a good mystery, the reader’s mind is working overtime, matching wits with the author’s, processing the clues, trying to foresee the future and g …

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R.J. Harlick: Crime Novels Across the Country

Book Cover Silver Totem of Shame

R.J. Harlick's Meg Harris was included on our Canadian Sleuth Lit Wish List in December, an amateur sleuth "who drinks a little too much and is afraid of the dark." She appears most recently in Harlick's latest novel, Silver Totem of Shame, in which Meg encounters the crime scene of a murdered Haida carver while on a visit to Vancouver and begins a journey up the coast to the islands of the Haida Gwaii in search of the murdered boy's family and his killer. 

While she's not cooking up new plot twists, Harlick fulfils her duties as President of Crime Writers of Canada. In this guest post, she offers a coast-to-coast perspective on the Canadian crime writing scene. 


These are exciting times for Canadian crime writing. With books by Canadian writers appearing more and more frequently on both national and international bestseller lists or as finalists and winners of national and international book awards, I feel we have finally arrived. It is hard to believe that 30 years ago, when Crime Writers of Canada was established, there were only a handful of authors writing distinctly Canadian mysteries. Today there are well over 250. I like to think we Canadians are the next wave to take the mystery reading world by storm.

With so many fabulous recent releases, it is diffi …

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Waste No Tears: Hugh Garner Exposes the Underside of Toronto the Good

Book Cover Waste No Tears

This story with its shocking expose of social evils, holds a forceful message for both sexes. Its strange mixture of power, tension and torment mark it as a human story that will thrill and grip all readers. Down in the depths of the city, washed by the murky waters of the dock-yards lies Skidrow, a dark den of intrigue and mystery, whose crumbling structures harbour the outcasts of the city.—From the 1950 edition

Hugh Garner’s second novel, Waste No Tears, hit drug store and train station spinner racks in July of 1950—then disappeared, never to see print again… until now. This is the latest release from Ricochet Books, a series of vintage noir mysteries edited by Brian Busby. The book's introduction, by Amy Lavender Harris, appears below. 


Toronto the Good—the straitlaced “City of Churches” where public drinking was prohibited and playground swings padlocked on Sundays—receives a far darker rendering in Hugh Garner’s Waste No Tears, a novel set in the bars, bedrooms and abortion clinics of Toronto’s skid row district. Pitched as “The Novel about the Abortion Racket,” Waste No Tears peels back the city’s thin veneer of respectable civility to reveal a far seamier underside—albeit one with its own covert morality.

First published in 1 …

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The Canadian Sleuth Lit Wish List

How the Light Gets In, the latest book in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, was a huge international success this year, proving once again that Canadian crime fiction knows what it’s doing. And although it is unclear whether or not Penny has more Gamache novels in the works, there is a huge variety of other Canadian crime/detective series to try out in the meantime. (And get ready—quite a few of these series have new instalments due in 2014!)

But how to choose which series to start with?

Well, it’s easy with our handy #LitWishList of fictional Canadian sleuths. Think of it like sleuthy speed-dating—peruse the list to see who catches your fancy. Though you just may end up wanting to read them all.


Book Cover Yellow Vengeance

The Toronto Lesbian PI: Calli Barnow

Last Seen: Yellow Vengeance by Liz Bugg

After narrowly escaping death while solving her last case, the Toronto PI is settling happily into married life with her new wife, Jess. Once again, however, trouble is looming: Jess wants a baby but Calli would rather fight a psycho with a gun than contemplate parenthood. When an old school friend asks Calli to investigate her mother’s death, Calli jumps at the chance to distract herself with work. Her plans go awry when her own mother reveals a shocking secret that threatens …

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Brad Smith Goes Looking for a Story


Book Cover Crows Landing

“Where do you find your stories?” is probably the most common (and least welcome) question a writer is asked. It has been said that Shakespeare wrote about every story that ever existed, so that leaves it to the rest of us to come up with variants on his tales. Sometimes these spring from pure imagination, and sometimes they originate in life. And sometimes the best place to track down true life is in the pages of that disappearing dinosaur—the newspaper.

My novel Busted Flush is the story of a man, Dock Bass, who—while renovating an old farmhouse near Gettysburg, Pa—stumbles upon a motherlode of Abraham Lincoln-related artifacts. Bass is then inundated with offers for the stuff, the offers coming from collectors, hustlers, dealers and other assorted ne-er-do-wells. I first came up with the idea after hearing that Sotheby’s in New York auctioned off JFK’s golf clubs for the sum of $770,000. I started thinking about the world of collectibles—and about the desire of certain people to own things connected, however tenuously, to a historical figure or even a minor celebrity. I attempted to tailor the JFK story to the Canadian landscape but I found, alas, that nobody really cared about John Deifenbaker’s three wood. So I settled on Honest Abe.

In Red …

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