Friday, November 11, 2011


Remembering with mysteries

On this day of remembering, it’s interesting to note that not that many Canadians have used the wars as settings for mysteries. There may be many reasons for this. That war itself is a mystery. That in itself, war is such an immense reality that it’s difficult to narrow it down to one event, say a murder. That using a war as a setting would require such intense research that many writers give it a pass.

But what better way to begin to understand the impact of war on individuals’ lives than by isolating an incident, a murder and building a story around not only the investigation but how it all affects those touched by the death. To give these participants the added burden of a lifestyle gone off the rails, of imminent tragedy on a broader scale, can only intensify the stakes.

J. Robert Janes did it. In his award-winning St-Cyr/Kohler series set in Paris in 1942, he pitted an agent of the Surete against a Gestapo officer, and more often working together to solve everyday crimes in the greater context of two enemy countries. These were memorable reads and hopefully, still available.

Maureen Jenning’s new series focuses on women in the Land Army, in 1940’s England. Season of Darkness, the first of this trilogy, was released in August this year.

Other Canadian authors have characters who have served in war or plots that have roots in that period, although the novels are set in contemporary times. Barbara Fradkin's Inspector Green faced this theme in two novels -- Once Upon a Time, where he investigates a death tied into the Holocaust, and Honour Among Men, a haunting story involving a diary of a soldier serving on a peace keeping mission and a murder victim in Ottawa. Peter Robinson’s In A Dry Season, has Inspector Alan Banks investigating a murder that took place during the Second World War involving Land Girls and US Airmen from a nearby base.

Vicki Delany’s suspense novel, Burden of Proof, features a former Nursing Sister in the Canadian Army during WW II. And Mary Jane Maffini set
her fifth Camilla McPhee novel, The Dead Don’t Get Out Much, on Remembrance Day in Ottawa. From there, the novel travels to Italy as Camilla searches for her missing friend and uncovers secrets from the war.

There are other Canadian authors who have tied their plots into the wars of the past and present and used the settings to stretch our reading experiences. Who is on your list of authors?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
A Killer Read coming April 3, 2012
from Berkley Prime Crime


  1. Hope you don't mind me mentioning my own - The Witch of Babylon. Great blog (as usual) Linda!

  2. Thanks for adding to the list, Dorothy! I'm hoping all the titles I left out will be mentioned because they all add so much to our reading experience.

  3. Those that came to my mind were already mentioned, including Dorothy's 'Witch of Babylon' with its powerful opening scene in the midst of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

  4. Thanks for the mention, Linda. But if I may.. the book is titled Burden of Memory, not Proof. Vicki