Monday, October 17, 2011


Recently, I had a surprise: a woman reviewed a book by an author I recognized. I imagine you scratching your head at this point. Big deal, you say. But it was a big deal to me. You see the woman was Adrienne Clarkson and the book was The Affair, the latest Jack Reacher crime novel by Lee Child.

First, I thought, well, there must be more than one Adrienne Clarkson, but no, it was definitely our former Governor-General, an accomplished writer with a new book out this week.

It was an elegant and insightful review. Did Adrienne Clarkson pan the book? Turn up her nose at it? No, she did not. Turns out she liked this book a lot and it’s not the first Reacher she’s read, despite the high body count. And she says she ‘has a fondness for the loner in my fictional life’.

You could have knocked me over with a chunk of spare prose, but I was grateful to Adrienne Clarkson. Why? Because we’re subjected to so much snobbery in our discussion of reading preferences that I didn’t expect a woman who is a Canadian icon to write a straightforward review like this. She read a crime novel. She liked it. She didn’t mind saying so.

And I certainly liked that.

People (I won’t name names, although you could buy me a drink one of these days and try your luck) curl their lip at the notion of genre fiction, as though it’s not worth the reading time of any thinking person and as though only literary fiction can allow a person to gain insight or experience another person’s loss, pain or joy. Emphasis on pain, my friends.

This is, of course, a load of malarkey. People read crime fiction, dark and light, for all kinds of reasons. We read to play the game of wits with an author, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, to travel in time and space and to other cultures, to consider issues of justice, to hold our breath in fear for the protagonist or potential victim and then enjoy the whoosh of relief when all is well. Often we want to experience the exhilaration of danger in the mean streets or elsewhere in the bad old world, from the safety of our armchair or pillow-top mattress. Sometimes, we want a chuckle too, or maybe that’s just me.

I hope to run into Adrienne Clarkson someday (her picture is everywhere) and ask her what other crime fiction she reads and enjoys. I’m hoping there’s more than one Canadian on the list. Stay tuned.

By the way, Adrienne Clarkson’s new book is Room for All of Us: Surprising Stories of Loss and Transformation. I’m looking forward to reading that too.

Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three (soon to be three and a half) mystery series and a couple of dozen short stories. Her thirteenth mystery novel, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder, which hit the bookshelves this spring, is brimming with names, no two the same.


  1. Wow! Awesome and good for you :-)

    I hope that this trend continues as I agree that fiction can bring a reader to places they never thought of and show them viewpoints they may never experience in their own minds.

    Keep up the great work!!