When I was young and had exhausted my pile of library books, usually long before the next scheduled trip, I would go to my parents bookshelves in search of something to read. My parents love mysteries, and the ones on their shelves were mostly British classics: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, or Margery Allingham. I cut my teeth on them.
Years later in the library I stumbled across an Eric Wright mystery, set in Toronto. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head, because suddenly I was familiar with the streets and the landmarks in a book. I set out to read as many as I could and hounded the librarians for Canadian titles. I found Gail Bowen, whose Joanne Kilbourn has become like family to me. I fell hard for detective Alex Kequahtooway, her first love interest, and I was devastated at his death. When I met Gail she assured me I’d come to love Zack, his lawyer replacement. I’m not sure I’m there yet (Sorry, Gail!) but I do know why Joanne loves him. The Joanne Kilbourn mysteries are set mostly in Regina and around Saskatchewan and delve deeply into that province’s political tradition for their stories.
Recently I’ve been exploring Dundurn’s great collection of Canadian mysteries. From undercover Mountie Jack Taggart (Don Easton) and authority-bucking David Bliss (James Hawkins) to psychiatrist Rebecca Temple (Sylvia Maultash Warsh) and zoologist Cordi O’Callaghan (Suzanne F. Kingsmill), the characters and the locations are wide-ranging and entertaining. I must admit to a new favourite, though. How lucky we are that John Moss has turned his brilliant academic mind to writing mysteries. His Miranda Quin and David Morgan of the Toronto Police service are a different breed of detectives. Intellectual and culturally sophisticated, they wrestle with both existential problems and their feelings for each other. Their adventures take them through the streets of Toronto and into the wilds of rural southern Ontario. Moss has written two titles so far (Still Waters and Grave Doubts) and I hope there will be many more.
I still love a good British police procedural mystery, but there’s something about being able to place myself in these Canadian locations that is so appealing. Here are some further recommendations:
Peter Robinson — Books are set in Yorkshire but often have a Canadian link or sub-plot.
Louise Penny – Wonderful books featuring Inspector Gamache of the Montreal police.
Maureen Jennings – Victorian Toronto is the backdrop for the deeply moral Detective William Murdoch
Giles Blunt – Set in Ontario’s near north, these novels feature Detective John Cardinal, who must cope with the mental illness of his beloved wife Catherine as he tries to keep Algonquin Bay free of crime.
For still more see the Crime Writers of Canada website.
About Clare Hitchens (@clarehitchens):
Clare Hitchens is the publicist for Wilfrid Laurier University Press and the Young Adult Author Coordinator for the Eden Mills Writers Festival.
She spends far too much time online already but hankers for an iPhone anyway.