Monday, September 6, 2010


Canadians...trickier than we look!

Contrary to popular belief Canadians are not always crawling out of their igloos to blink at the midnight sun or trapping beavers to display on nickels or crashing through the endless woods after portaging our birch bark canoes past whitewater rapids. Not at all. We are as urbane and laidback as the next guy. In fact, we may be the next guy. We’re always sneaking off to some other country and disguising ourselves as the locals. No one ever catches on. I offer all those comedians in Hollywood as exhibits A through Z.

The same thing applies to mysteries. Recently I’ve read several that proved my point and in very entertaining ways. For instance, in The Cold Light of Mourning, Elizabeth J. Duncan chooses a Welsh village to allow a gentle mystery to unfold. Penny Brannigan, the transplanted Canadian manicurist is at home in her adopted village in North Wales when an elegant bride disappears on the day of her wedding. I loved the village characters and the mood and traditional approach to the story. I’m not surprised that Elizabeth won the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant (2006) for unpublished writers and the St. Martin’s Press/Malice (2008) award for best first novel. She’s the first Canadian to win either. Fooled everyone! I see where her second novel, A Brush with Death, was published in July, 2010. I expect she’ll fool me again. Try your hand and check out the website at

Then there’s Toronto funny boy Linwood Barclay. He can trick you into a false sense of security what with his hilarious columns and comedy routines and the amusing Zak Walker mysteries, before he makes your hair fall out with those thrillers. In Never Look Away, set in Northern New York State, Barclay captures not only the venue but the emotions of a small town journalist beset by cutbacks and office politics. Of course, all that pales when his wife disappears at a fairgrounds and someone tries to abduct his four-year-old son, Ethan. You’d think it couldn’t get worse and you would be very very wrong. Try not to read this on a work night. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Take a peek at Linwood’s work (including the Zak Walker mysteries) at

Then there’s Yorkshire writer Peter Robinson, author of the Inspector Banks series. Except that Peter Robinson has been cheerfully residing in Toronto for more than thirty years. Hmmm. He can fool people on both side of the pond. Never mind. I fall for the whole shebang including buying his books in hardcover. Bad Boy, the latest Inspector Banks novel, has made the New York Times extended best seller list just after publication. I am very glad that I got my mitts on it. I will walk anywhere with Inspector Banks at my side and I note he’s in San Francisco as this one opens. They’ll be fooled too. I’ll be taking the phone off the hook, my doorbell might go on the fritz and I imagine that my computer battery will die too. Just sayin’. Go have a look at

I’m a bit tricky myself. My own latest book, Closet Confidential, is set in the upper Hudson Valley town of Woodbridge (not its real name!) but that is neither here nor there. If you are scared of your closet, I’ll have you by the throat. Otherwise, you might want to drop in for the banter.

Do you have a favourite tricky Canadian? Let’s hear about that!

Mary Jane Maffini manages to be pretty sneaky in three mystery series.
Her latest book is Closet Confidential. She mentions that from time to time.
You can probably trip her up by checking out


  1. Great suggestions. And how about Rick Mofina who sets his in the U.s. and whose latest, Panic Zone, has crime writer Jack Gannon back again, this time investigating deaths in Rio.

  2. I really like traveling around with Rick in his thrillers. He looks so innocent too.


  3. I just finished Linwood's, and I agree. Don't plan on doing anything else, like finishing your own book, while reading his. On the flip side, many Canadians are now writing about Canada, and making it a very scary place as well. Nothing 'nice guy' about us, although we might say we're sorry when we kill you!

  4. you've convinced me to get Rick's latest, on my trip tomorrow to Ottawa i'll pick up a copy and also latest by MJ and Barbara at Prime Crime . . . . ooooo i miss that store, but how delightful that Linda has transitioned into a 3-book contract

  5. And how about our late and very much missed Tricky Canadian, Lyn Hamilton. Her antique dealer, Lara, touched down occasionally in her home town of Toronto but she spent most of her time solving mysteries at exotic archeological sites. I still love stretching out in my favourite chair and tagging along with Lara/Lyn to China, Hawaii, Ireland, Malta - to name just a few locales. Lara is a citizen of the world but if you read very carefully you can pick up the tiniest Canadianisms in her speech.