Wednesday, November 17, 2010


There’s no business like the mystery business!

Tuesday evening Brenda Chapman and I threw a party at the Library and Archives Canada to celebrate the launch our latest mysteries. There was wine, thanks to the Friends of the Library, food, musical entertainment provide by George Pike, readings, signings, schmoozing, and of course books for sale. Oodles of people came. Brenda and I signed books and greeted friends all evening long until our voices were hoarse and our hand sore.

Later that evening, with my feet up on my coffee table and a glass of wine at my elbow, I had a chance to reflect on this wonderful annual event called the Ottawa mystery book launch. It is a launch like none other. There is a buzz of joy and anticipation in the room, books fly off the sales table and people line up twenty deep waiting to get them signed. Old friends and new fans alike come to celebrate with you, and laugh and chat together as they mingle. Mystery lovers are passionate about their genre, and are eager to discover new authors or to buy the latest of old favourites.

How did this all happen? How did Ottawa come to have such a special relationship to its mystery community? I think we need look no further than the Ladies Killing Circle. Back in the mists of time, so far back that those of us who were there can no longer remember the details, the Ladies Killing Circle edited its first anthology and celebrated its first launch. First time authors like myself, thrilled to see our names in print, invited every friend and family member within a day’s drive of the Capital, and we filled the foyer of the Library and Archives Canada. Wine flowed and homemade treats were snapped up. Two years later, we did it again, with some newly acquired fans in attendance along with the dutiful family members.

Then one of our circle, Mary Jane Maffini, published her very own first mystery, SPEAK ILL OF THE DEAD, and we all filled the Library and Archives again, along with Mary Jane’s numerous friends and large family. The next year it was me, publishing my very first Inspector Green mystery, DO OR DIE. Over the years, more Camilla McPhee, Fiona Silk and Inspector Green novels swelled the ranks, and some years we held joint launches so as to give our poor friends a break. Two authors for the price of one, so to speak. Her fans became my fans, and vice versa.

A few years later, another LKC member, Joan Boswell, launched her solo novel career with the Hollis Grant series, and RJ Harlick, who had received her first publishing credit as a contributor to the Ladies Killing Circle anthologies, launched Meg Harris. Each held launches in the elegant marble foyer of the Library and Archives Canada, with George Pike’s fluid piano playing in the background and Georgia Ellis’ Friends of the Library keeping the wine flowing. It was becoming an annual fall event. What was the pre-holiday gift-buying season without a trip to the Library to stock up on the latest autographed tomes?

As of now, there have been seven LKC anthologies, eight Inspector Green novels, twelve Mary Jane Maffini novels, four Meg Harris’s and three Hollis Grants launched at the Library. And two days ago, Brenda Chapman joined the ranks. Far from growing tired of the yearly ritual, Ottawa’s mystery loving community seems to have embraced it. The launch parties have become an annual event, growing in size and enthusiasm as each new book and author arrives on the scene, bringing their own coterie of family and fans.

It is this unique combination of friendship, mutual support, and wonderful writing that makes the Ottawa mystery community the envy of so many. As crime writers, we may not get much media attention at our vibrant, overflowing launches. We may not get invited to participate in the Ottawa Writers’ Festival or get shortlisted for the Ottawa Book Awards, but we know that we have created something very special. Our friends, family and readers know it too.

Barbara Fradkin is
a child psychologist with a fascination for how we turn bad. In addition to her darkly haunting short stories in the Ladies Killing Circle anthologies, she writes the gritty, Ottawa-based Inspector Green novels which have won back to back Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Novel from Crime Writers of Canada. The eighth in the series, Beautiful Lie the Dead, which explores love in all its complications, is hot off the press.


  1. Congratulations on your new Inspector Green - your legions of fans will be thrilled to follow him again. The Library launches are special and I was sorry to miss yours although I will be at The Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto on Saturday afternoon, November 27th, to celebrate the release of your latest book.

  2. This is a terrific book and congrats on your excellent review in today's online Globe & Mail!

    Always fun going to one of your launches!


  3. Always fun going to one of yours too, Mary Jane! When we aren't actually sharing the podium.

  4. So glad I could make it to this launch Barbara as I always look forward to your new books and also to seeing old friends at the gathering. Can't wait to start the latest!

  5. Nice review this morning, Barbara!

  6. Thanks, Jayne. What was especially thrilling was the fact that Margaret Cannon reviewed entirely Canadian mysteries this time!

  7. The Ottawa Mystery Book Launch is an amazing phenomenum - definitely the party to be at each fall. I think this must be the first time I've ever missed. Congratulations Barbara and Brenda!

  8. You are so right about the community, Barbara. It is very special. Glad to hear you & Brenda had a successful and fun evening.