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Mystery Minute: Perfect Families, Giant Eels, and More

The Transaction, by Guglielmo D'Izzia

"Under the brutal brightness of D’Izzia’s Sicilian sun, we’re forced to confront the most uncomfortable and grotesque taboos. What’s more, we, like De Angelis, are forced to confront our complicity in their continued existence."—Hollay Ghadery

A property harbouring a gruesome secret goes up for sale. Two men—perhaps, the wrong men—are shot in plain daylight. Nothing is what it seems. And matters do not turn out as anticipated. De Angelis, an inscrutable northerner, is travelling to a small town perched somewhere in Sicily's hinterland to negotiate a real estate transaction, only to find himself embroiled in a criminal conspiracy. While en route, the train he's on mysteriously breaks down, forcing him to spend the night in a squalid whistle stop. What follows is a web of unsettling events, involving child prostitution and brazen killings, that lead to the abrupt demise of his business deal. But De Angelis is undeterred and intent on discovering what went wrong with his transaction. As he embarks on a reckless sleuthing, an unexpected turn of events sends him into a tailspin. At the heart of it is an alluring blue-eyed girl, Marinella. The chance encounter with the eleven-year-old traps him in a psychological and mo …

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Tackling the Big Themes EXAMPLE

I’ve been dubbed a medical thriller or medical suspense writer. It’s true. Medicine plays a pivotal role in my work. And I apply my twenty-plus years of experience in working on the frontlines at a downtown ER to imbue my stories with authenticity. But I also use my fiction to deconstruct medical issues that are controversial, topical, and especially impactful. My goal is always to inform while, hopefully, providing nail-biting entertainment. I’ve tackled big themes, including the devastation of the opioid epidemic, the rise of superbugs, and of course, the threat of the next pandemic, which no longer seems a topic necessary for fictional treatment. My latest novel, Lost Immunity, addresses the deadly serious issue of vaccine hesitancy and its potential impact on a global outbreak. And I am fiercely committed to spreading that message any way I can.

I grew up inspired by realistic storytellers such as James Michener, Ken Follett, and Michael Crichton. I wholly believe that good stories can also educate. And maybe that is why is I am drawn to fiction writers who highlight vital social and scientific themes through their novels. And fortunately, there is an abundance of Canadian authors who do that exceptionally well. And here is my list of a handful of examples of that artful skill.

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Gutter Child, by Jael Richardson

I doubt this dystopian novel could be much more topical, especially considering the vast disparities in …

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The Places We'll Go

In a year where much of what we’ve come to expect of the world has been shut down, it remains a simple truth that books—for better or worse—can always transport us to places we’ve never been before, or destinations to which we long to return. Aren’t we all yearning for a little adventure? Hasn’t the global pandemic confined us to the worry-filled square footage of our homes? My third thriller, The Hunted, steps right into this gap, taking readers on a journey down the coast of eastern Africa, to a tiny, idyllic island just south of Zanzibar. On Rafiki Island, Tanzania, there’s a beautiful dive camp, trustworthy people, and a chance to really kick back and relax. Doesn’t it all sound great?

But pack your fictional bags at your peril, because I’ve found a great list of Canadian travel adventures that all have a sting in their tail. We’re thriller writers, after all, and the mission is to take you on paradise vacations and terrify you while you’re there.

Here are my picks for how to travel the globe with a renewed love and appreciation for the safety of your own armchair.

*****

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Tackling the Big Themes

I’ve been dubbed a medical thriller or medical suspense writer. It’s true. Medicine plays a pivotal role in my work. And I apply my twenty-plus years of experience in working on the frontlines at a downtown ER to imbue my stories with authenticity. But I also use my fiction to deconstruct medical issues that are controversial, topical, and especially impactful. My goal is always to inform while, hopefully, providing nail-biting entertainment. I’ve tackled big themes, including the devastation of the opioid epidemic, the rise of superbugs, and of course, the threat of the next pandemic, which no longer seems a topic necessary for fictional treatment. My latest novel, Lost Immunity, addresses the deadly serious issue of vaccine hesitancy and its potential impact on a global outbreak. And I am fiercely committed to spreading that message any way I can.

I grew up inspired by realistic storytellers such as James Michener, Ken Follett, and Michael Crichton. I wholly believe that good stories can also educate. And maybe that is why is I am drawn to fiction writers who highlight vital social and scientific themes through their novels. And fortunately, there is an abundance of Canadian authors who do that exceptionally well. And here is my list of a handful of exampl …

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For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

Isn't it great when you find a new author or series that fits your reading taste to a tee? Here are a few new books that might be just what you're looking for right now.

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FOR FANS OF JOHN GRISHAM

Thirst for Justice, by David R. Boyd

"Fast and fierce."—Kirkus Reviews

Michael MacDougall is a talented trauma surgeon whose life in Seattle is slowly unravelling. Frustrated as an ER doctor and with his marriage in trouble, he volunteers with a medical aid charity in the Congo. Disconsolate at the lives he cannot save in the desperate conditions of the region, he is shattered by a roadside confrontation with the mercenary Mai Mai that results in unthinkable losses.

Back home in Seattle, he is haunted by his experiences in Africa and what he sees as society’s failure to provide humanitarian aid to those who most desperately need it. Locked in a downward spiral, he becomes obsessed with making his government listen to him and dreams up an act of terrorism to shock his nation awake.

Activist and lawyer David Boyd’s debut novel is a taut political thriller that begs the question: how far is too far when you’re seeking justice?

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Launchpad: LOSS LAKE, by Amber Cowie

Launchpad Logo

Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Samantha Bailey, bestselling author of Women on the Edge, is recommending Loss Lake, by Amber Cowie. She write, "Amber Cowie is a gifted storyteller. In Loss Lake she creates a stunning suspense about dangerous small-town secrets that threaten the lives of its residents, and its latest newcomer. Sentence by gorgeous sentence, Cowie reveals an intricately woven, powerful plot, unveiling the depths of the characters and their lies. A magnificent read crackling with tension."

*****

49th Shelf: What particular something have you managed to achieve with this book that you’re especially proud of?

Amber Cowie: Loss Lake is a creepy cabin-in-the-woods story that was a true labour of lov …

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The Recommend: Summer 2018

Research shows that 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 Ian Hamilton (The Imam of Tawi-Wawi), Sam Wiebe (Cut You Down), Dave Butler (Full Curl), Mark Lisac (Where the Bodies Lie), and Dietrich Kalteis (Ride the Lightning).

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Ian Hamilton recommends Paul William Roberts' The Demonic Comedy

I'm a huge fan of the travel/memoir genre. To my mind, writers like Bruce Chatwin, Eric Newby, Pico Iyer, and Norman Lewis who can weave history, personal stories, geography, politics, culture, and social mores into wonderfully complex stories are to be treasured. All of those writers have British roots, and so does another of their ilk: Paul William Roberts. But since Roberts has lived almost his entire adult life in Canada, and identifies himself as Canadian, I have no trouble claiming him as one, and I have no trouble choosing his book The Demonic Comedy as one of the best Canadian books I've ever read.

Roberts—who has a doctorate in ancient Middle Eastern history—writes about Iraq pre …

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Andrew Pyper: Outsiders, Inner Demons, and Satan's Charms

Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

Andrew Pyper grew up in Stratford, ON. The only student from his high school to attend university out of province, he landed at McGill, pursued English Lit, and completed a Master's degree before deciding to put academia aside for practical concerns—it was time to get a job. He turned to law and was called to the bar when for completely unpractical reasons he began to write what would become his first, highly acclaimed novel, Lost Girls. Pyper embarked on a curious though successful trajectory: he was a literary writer moving in the direction of genre fiction. Now, with The Demonologist (Simon & Schuster), Pyper makes his first unabashed leap into horror writing. But he doesn't leave his lit cred far behind.

Julie Wilson: In The Demonologist, your protagonist, Professor David Ullman, is an expert on Milton's Paradise Lost, described in your novel as "blank verse that seemed to defend the indefensible," which is great. How did you prep to become as familiar with Paradise Lost as Ullman?

Andrew Pyper: I had read Paradise Lost with great haste the night before the exam for some Intro to Literature course in first year university. In other words, I barely read it at all. But I took with me the impression left by the star of the show (intended or otherwise), namely Sa …

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Penguin author Peggy Blair on rejection, persistence, and how Ian Rankin changed her life.

The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair (Penguin).

Peggy Blair was a lawyer for more than thirty years. A recognized expert in Aboriginal law, she also worked as a criminal defence lawyer and Crown prosecutor. Blair spent a Christmas in Old Havana, where she watched the bored young policemen on street corners along the Malecón, visited Hemingway’s favourite bars, and learned to make a perfect mojito. A former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Peggy is named in Canadian Who's Who. She currently lives in Ottawa where she works in real estate. Visit her online at www.peggyblair.com.

About The Beggar's Opera: In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecon. For Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, finding his prime suspect isn’t a problem—Cuban law is. He has only seventy-two hours to secure an indictment and prevent a vicious killer from leaving the island. But Ramirez has his own troubles to worry about. He’s dying of the same dementia that killed his grandmother, an incurable disease that m …

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"Free fall beneath the carpet": David Rotenberg on setting The Placebo Effect in Toronto

Book Cover The Placebo Effect

I directed the first Canadian play in the People’s Republic of China in Shanghai (in Mandarin) when that country was in the massive transition from a profoundly oppressive socialist state to a basically free market economy – a thrilling time and my time there inspired me to write my first novel. I also lived in Manhattan for many years and it still forms the base for some of my work. New York knows what it is. It’s been written about, sung about and mythologized into a state of firm existence. People immigrate to New York from all over the world and become New Yorkers. You peel back the carpet and you find yesterday’s New York, you pry up the floorboards and you get yesteryear’s New York.

Toronto is different – sometimes there’s free fall beneath the carpet.

I was born and raised in Toronto, and retuned to the city in 1987 after living in the United States for the better part of sixteen years. Since I've been back, I've had nine novels published. But The Placebo Effect is the first time I’ve written about my hometown. And I didn’t find it all that easy. Toronto is a city where more than 50% of its citizens were not born in the country. Sometimes there’s “ just no there, there” – to quote Ms. Stein. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing …

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