Saturday, September 29, 2012


by Rick Blechta
Dundurn Press

Enter the world of opera, travel, suspense, despair, tragedy, deceit, delight, and terror. All this in one book, Toronto author Rick Blechta's latest mystery, The Fallen One. Blechta's background in music shines through in this tale of Canadian opera star Marta Hendriks, battling to get her career back on track after bowing out for a couple years following the tragic death of her husband, Marc in a house fire.

When Marta travels to Paris to sing the role of Violetta in Traviata for the Paris Opera, she's counting on this being her re-entry into that world. She hasn't bargained on seeing her dead husband on a Paris street, shaking her confidence and threatening to undo the years of therapy. To save her sanity and her career, Marta travels back to her home in Toronto, and then onto the ruins of the house Marc was building for them, just outside Ottawa in the Lanark Highlands. She searches through Marc's pickup truck which has been stored on the property and finds a clue that leads her to a small apartment in Montreal. And Marc's true identity.

She's then drawn into a cat-and-mouse game involving biker gangs, RCMP, two more deaths and finally, an attempt on her own life when she searches for Marc back in Paris. She doesn't know who to trust -- the good guys are indistinguishable from the bad. Along the way, Marta matures as a soprano who is now in demand, dares to care about another man, faces her demons, and emerges with the truth.

It's a suspense-filled journey, often terrifying, but also one of opulent opera halls along with the colourful characters who populate that world. Blechta has skillfully woven it all together into a novel that's hard to put down. Enter the world of opera, of suspense, of a mystery not to be missed!

Friday, September 28, 2012


Times are a'changin...

I remember when the big box stores first hit the scene, particularly Chapters, back in the days when I had Prime Crime Books. The initial panic was offset by cooler heads, one in particular -- a sales rep, who said that the independents needed to try to ride out the wave. That the big box craze would burn itself out and guess what would emerge from the ashes -- independents.

He was right. Although, unfortunately, many of us were unable to stick around until it happened.

We see it in bookstores: Borders gone out of business; Chapters/Indigo diversifying to the point where books often seem the add-ins these days. Even some of the big box retailers in other sectors are opting to open smaller, local stores these days. The store in the community where it's a cosy, friendly shopping experience. The Home Hardware model.

So, while we're still loosing Indies that are important to the soul of the community, others are opening their doors. And in Ottawa, I'm happy to say, the mixed merchandise model is alive and well at Britton's in the Glebe. I'm touting my own horn here, a bit, because it really was Ted Britton's idea. He heard, on a daily basis, from customers who still regretted the closing of Prime Crime. So, what better fit than magazines and mysteries?

He'd already ventured into the book business, stocking mainly non-fiction and local authors. His next step was to clear a healthy space of wall and bring in the mysteries. I'm having all the fun doing the ordering and displaying...and meeting with mystery lovers, usually on Saturday afternoons. But don't hold me to that schedule.

We call it the Prime Crime Bookshelf and former customers are very pleased. New customers, too.

He's also very committed to doing book signings, so most weekends, that's what you'll find at Britton's in the Glebe, at 846 Bank St. In fact, today we're having Toronto author Rick Blechta signing his hot-off-the-press mystery, The Fallen One. He'll be at the store 2-4 p.m. Tomorrow, it's popular local author Barbara Fradkin, 1-3 p.m.

So, if you're an author who's planning to visit Ottawa, let us know if you'd like to do a signing. Send me an email at If you're a reader who loves a good read, I hope you'll stop by and watch the Prime Crime Bookshelf evolve.
The mystery is...just how far can we expand?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Oops...did I write that?

I don't want to wade into the Margaret Wente brouhaha that's popping up in the media these days. Suffice to say that I often enjoy her columns and even bought her book, You Can't Say That in Canada many moons ago. What it does bring to mind, however is the fact that, "there's no such thing as a new plot". Sorry, I'm unable to attribute that but it's definitely not my original thought.

As a writer, that does cause me concern. I read so much, often in the sub-genre I write, so it could happen without my being aware. Oops, I've used someone else's idea, description, location in my story. I do read cosies, even though I know many writers won't read anything similar to what they're writing, mainly for that reason. But I feel I need to stay on top of what my publisher is choosing as new series, in particular. What grabs their attention, and presumably therefore, the support of the reading public.

It's difficult enough keeping a series fresh and moving forward. This information adds some insight into "trends" and possible ways to keep the series alive.

I've been giving a lot of thought to just this aspect of writing -- keeping a series from fading into an untimely ending. I've thought about writing a short story, for some variety in writing styles; trying to do a Rapid Reads; starting a second, totally new series; any or all of the above.

What I do is write a blog a couple of times a week, and mystery reviews. But is it enough? Time will tell.

How do you keep your series fresh? Anything I've mentioned or are you just naturally the type of writer who works with your characters to keep things compelling and at the top of readers' lists?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012;
available now for pre-order

Monday, September 24, 2012


The “work” side of writing

I’ve always looked at the act of writing words for a living as being two-sided. The first side is the actual creation of something: getting those thoughts down, polishing the prose until it’s right (or as right as you can make it). That’s being a writer.

The second side of the job comes after all this is done. You find and deal with a publisher (with or without an agent), you’re interviewed (hopefully a lot!), and you go out and do book signings and readings. In the past few years blogging, tweeting and maintaining a website have also become part of the your job description. That’s being an author.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that the first part of the job is enjoyable. The second part is work.

I’m currently smack dab in the middle of the second part, because my eighth novel, The Fallen One, was released this past week. The launch was on Wednesday at Toronto’s fabled Arts and Letters Club in their Great Hall. For me, it was an extremely nerve-wracking evening and I’d be a liar if I told you there weren’t times getting ready for it where I asked myself why the heck I was putting myself through this. Fortunately, my little soirĂ©e was a huge success, all the books were sold, and I think everyone who attended had a good time. I even did, too.

To my mind book launches are important. Cynically, it’s a chance to sell a lot of books at one time, to make a splash, maybe even catch a bit of the media spotlight. The Fallen One’s launch managed to do all those things – well, all except the last part: the media obstinately stayed away. (Sigh...)

Considering how much time and effort go into producing a novel, a launch should be a celebration of the birth of your literary baby. Doesn’t that deserve a party, the best party you can manage?

Having a lot of author friends, I’ve attended a lot of book launches. Usually, they’re pretty lame events, truth be told. You ask fellow authors, family and friends to come to a bookstore or a bar or possibly a library. Some cheese is consumed, washed down by a glass or two of wine or beer. A speech from the publisher is made. The writer speaks briefly, possibly reads. Books are sold (sometimes not very many, truth be told) and then signed. Everyone goes home. A few launches I’ve attended have been over in an hour.

That’s sort of pathetic, isn’t it? Here you’ve spent many months creating this work, spent many more waiting for the publisher to spring into action. If you didn’t have a publisher at the start, you might have spent years looking for one. Then you’ve been through the editing process, approval of covers, talking with the promotion department, texting, tweeting, blogging and facebooking, all in an attempt to get the word out about your literary masterpiece. It is exhausting and generally not much fun.

So to all of you, celebrate the birth of a book. If you’re the author, give that thing a huge send off. You deserve a bit party for all you’ve been through. If you’re a publisher, even though you may publish one hundred books a year, make each launch something special. You deserve it – and your author certainly deserves it. And if you’re a reader, attend that launch, support that writer (probably also a friend) and enjoy the event.

After all, even though thousands of books come out every year, the “first evening” of a new book is a special thing.

Rick Blechta is a Toronto writer and musician whose novels have been critically acclaimed because of the depth of their characters and absorbing plots. All feature music of some sort. His current novel, The Fallen One, has opera as its background and features a globe-trotting soprano who has a critical problem: the husband she thought had tragically died in a house fire might not be dead. He might not even be who she thought he was. It is available now in bookstores and online from Chapters/Indigo, and will be available shortly from Amazon and all other electronic outlets on October first. For more information, please visit:

Saturday, September 22, 2012


by Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press

It's been a few years since Vicki Delany wrote a gothic thriller. She's been busy with her Const. Molly Smith police series, set in B.C., and her Klondike mysteries. All very good reads. But it's with the standalones that Delany really shines. Indeed, sparkles.

In More Than Sorrow, we're drawn immediately into the gripping story of Hannah Manning, a journalist who's recovering at her sister's farm in Prince Edward Country after suffering a serious brain injury from a IED during her stint in Afghanistan.

Hannah's new world is frightening and foreign. She's not in control of the blinding headaches that send her to bed for hours on end. She can't read, frustrating for a journalist, but she's also lost her desire to work. She's unable to pitch in and help with the farm work, something that's starting to grate on her brother-in-law, Jake, as the young family struggles to sustain an organic farm. In fact, her young niece often has to keep an eye on her.

The doctors say it will take time; that the brain works in mysterious ways. It's not enough for Hannah and her frustration grows. She's found she can handle handwriting and starts reading her way through old journals and letters found in the attic of the old farmhouse, which had originally belonged to Jake's family but has wound its way through many other owners.

There is also the vegetables Hannah needs for the roadside store she helps maintain.
But the cellar holds something more sinister and Hannah looses herself in time when she enters the space. Many hours are unaccounted for and she's afraid to admit to what could be hallucinations. Here Delany intertwines the story of a Loyalist family that fled the States during the 1776 revolution and eventually settled in Upper Canada...Ontario. It's a fascinating story of lost wealth and position, lost family and dreams.

When a young Afghan woman, Hila, dreadfully scared in her own country, but brought to Canada to live with a family next door, becomes friends with Hannah, this leads to lengthy walks where they silently share the horrors they both left behind. When Hila goes missing and is eventually found dead, Hannah's world is once again turned upside down. She's accused of murder by a vindictive military official; she can't account for gaps in time; and eventually, her family is put in deep peril.

These are two fascinating stories -- that of Hannah and the glimpses we have of her life in the hell of war, and that of Maggie, the young Loyalist's widow who journeyed to her final resting place in Ontario. The stories intertwine as the death count rises.

Delany is an accomplished writer who draws characters that have depth and become important to the reader. The pacing helps add to the suspense and feeling of the sinister. The stakes are such that the reader is drawn in and vested until the final pages. It's a fascinating story; an intriguing plot; and, a tale that will stay with you long past the final page.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Look what's new!

There's crime on the minds of many Ontario mystery writers these days. September is a key month for new releases and we have two local authors in celebrating mode.

Brenda Chapman has a new teen novel, ages 13+ from Dundurn, Second Chances, that she's launching tomorrow at Collected Works, 1242 Wellington St. (Not a Rapid Read, as earlier stated!!) And, Barbara Fradkin's newest Rapid Read, Evil Behind That Door, is also out. If you read Wednesday's blog you'll already know that Barbara's busy planning a launch. Details to follow.

Rapid Reads are quickly becoming a popular format for Canadian mystery authors. Aimed at the reluctant reader, they can be tricky to write as the plot has to be fairly straightforward and strong while the language is uncomplicated.

Also new this month is Toronto author Rick Blechta's latest novel, The Fallen One. It's another mystery set in the world of music, this time, opera. Rick will be in Ottawa next weekend for several signings, including one at the Prime Crime Bookshelf at Britton's in the Glebe on Fri., Sept. 28, 2-4 p.m.

And, from Prince Edward County, we have Vicki Delany with More Than Sorrow, a stand-alone for this prolific writer who also has two series on the go. It's already on the shelves and Vicki will also be signing at Britton's on Sat. Oct. 20th.

And, speaking of signings, Barbara Fradkin signs her most recent Inspector Green novel, Beautiful Lie the Dead at the Prime Crime Bookshelf on Sat., Sept. 29, 1-3 p.m.

We're really fortunate to have such a talented mystery writing pool in Ontario, along with crime writers from across Canada. I encourage you to read a Canadian and enjoy some cool Canadian crime!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


It’s book launch planning time again! Time to decide what kind of party I want this time, to wonder whether my friends and family will come to yet another party (“Didn’t I just come to one?”), to agonize over the venue, the format, and the cost. Not to mention the new outfit.

In the past fifteen years, I’ve been to dozens of book launches, nine of my own as well as those of friends and colleagues. I’ve seen all kinds. Formal sit-down readings and raucous pub parties, rock band entertainment, ballroom dancers, and funny parlour games. To me, launches are not about making sales or marketing the book, they are about sending it out into the world and celebrating the accomplishment.

Most of my launches have had the trappings of elegance with a dash of devilry. We are very fortunate in Ottawa to have Library and Archives Canada, which has always provided space free of charge for cultural events, and the wonderful Friends of the Library, which provides the donation wine bar as a fundraiser. The sunken lobby of the LAC has soaring ceilings, marble columns and floors, and a smattering of white-clothed tables on which to spread platters of cheeses, chocolates and other fine finger foods. The space holds about two hundred people, and often it has been packed for the Ottawa crime writers’ launches. People mingle, greet old friends, browse the books and line up to have them signed, all to the graceful backdrop of jazz piano played by George Pike, our truly secret ingredient to a successful launch.

Over the years, these book launches have become part of the cultural scene. People look forward to them and never seem to grown tired of them. They do not roll their eyes as if to say “Not another one!” Instead, they stock up on gifts and often come to the signing table with stacks of books and a list of names.

Sometimes, an author launches a book alone, but often two or three of us team up for a double or even triple launch. We usually have the same pool of friends and readers, so this is one way to avoid launch fatigue, but it also splits the work and adds to the fun. A couple of short talks, brief readings, and lots of time to mingle and sign. A perfect evening!

But each time, I wonder whether I should do something different, whether after nine books the novelty will wear off among the attendees. Other authors have had launches in restaurants and pubs, both big and small, or in art galleries and theatre studios. Sometimes they bring in their rock musician friends to play a few sets, as if readings and talks were not entertainment enough on their own. For my last book, The Fall Guy, which is an easy-read novella aimed at a very different audience from my Inspector Green books, I held the party in a pub along with two other writers. We filled the place, and everyone loved the relaxed, informal, no-mic, stand-on –a-chair-and-scream atmosphere. Including me.

This year I have two launches to plan, one for the latest easy-read novella, Evil Behind that Door, which has just been released, and one for the next Inspector Green, The Whisper of Legends, which comes out in the spring.

Two different books, two very different parties. What to do.

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 havewon back to back Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Novel from Crime Writers of Canada. The eighth in the series, Beautiful Lie the Dead, explores love in all its complications. And, her Rapid Read from Orca, The Fall Guy, was launched last year.

Monday, September 17, 2012



Yet another mystery conference is just around the corner -- on Thanksgiving weekend to be exact. It's in the US, of course, so doesn't fall on their holiday weekend. Bouchercon is the name of this one and it's one of the biggest, attracting a lot of international authors who rarely make it across the ocean. Also, it's heavily into the heavy weights as in big names and dark crimes. Every writer should attend at least one Bouchercon in their career.

I'll be in the midst of a lot of Canucks, in fact, we're hosting a social on Friday night just to wave the flag and let the attendees meet some Canadian authors. It should be a lot of fun and we'll be spreading the word about some cool Canadian crime.

My panel at this conference is about murder in a US smalltown and local Ottawan, Brenda Chapman, author of In Winter's Grip, will also be on it. I like this topic as it gives authors an opportunity to debunk the "Jessica Fletcher" syndrome. Also, the choices of victims and suspects is pretty much the same in any smalltown, either side of the border.

What I also like about being on panels, this one in particular, is that it offers an opportunity to step back from the writing and view it from another angle. I don't stop and think about the derth of either victims or suspects when planning a book. Maybe I should. I do try to make the choices believable, so on some level must be addressing this problem. But that's where visitors come in handy. Someone in town on business, visiting relatives, or just touring the region. There's also the new person in town, surely with a backstory to be uncovered. Or the sleuth could be on vacation, giving her hometown a break for at last one book.

The possibilities are endless to the writer who likes a challenge. And one of the challenges is taking the time to re-assess where the series is going. How the characters are developing over a number of books. What's happening to relationships. And, oh yes, who's the next victim to be? How many times can I make the sleuth a suspect?

What fun! And, yes, the conference will be fun, too. I always come away from these with a slightly different way of looking at writing. And that's got to be good for everyone.

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012;
available now for pre-order

Saturday, September 15, 2012


by Michael J. McCann
Plaid Raccoon Press

This first mystery by Michael McCann has been out for a couple of years now, in fact his third one is due this fall. but this is the one I started with...and I was hooked! It's a police procedural, set in the States, with Lieutenant Hank Donaghue and his partner, Detective Karen Stainer riding the mean streets of, well we don't rally know except that's it's a city in the States.

Donaghue has fallen from his perch as a cop-hero when the mayor is voted out of office and subsequently, his xxx, the chief, loses his job. It's time for payback from the new regime and Donaghue is shunted to the basement but eventually makes it back to homicide. But his nemesis is still gunning for him.

Sounds sort of familiar. Good cop; bad cops down on him; bad guys that are into murder and mayhem. But McCann takes the story and lifts it above the others with his crisp writing style and well thought out characters. Of course, there's the unusual story of the three-year-old boy who claims to be the reincarnation of his older cousin who was murdered. A case Donaghue briefly handled but has been on the cold case desk for a few years. The kid's memories bring the case back to the forefront and Donaghue and Stainer are hot on the trial of the Triad and one member in particular,the dead man's cousin, who is hell bent on retribution.

As we're told on the back cover, "there are over 2,500 documented cases of young children who have reported memories of a previous life". McCann has taken this fact and woven into an intriguing tale of honour, power, and murder. The action is fast paced, the plot intricate and compelling, the characters are ones you want to read about again.

Readers looking for a good crime novel will not be disappointed.

Friday, September 14, 2012


A can opener kind of day!

You know what the day's going to be like when you make a grab for the machine, plug it in, take out the espresso beans and discover it's the can opener, not the coffee grinder, that's sitting ready to go. Ughhhh....

Then the egg yolk squirts across your hand (don't ask), and you suddenly remember that trip to the bank. Except, there aren't enough hours in this day to fit it in. What's a gal to do?

Time for some basic time management, I'd say.

But it's really not my fault. I was all geared up, mentally and appointment-wise, to attend the Lyndhurst Turkey Fair on Sat., Sept. 22. Except it's on Sat. Sept. 15. You got it -- tomorrow. And I just found out last week. Too late to change some plans but possible to squeeze other things in, if I forget lunch and have dinner on the fly.

And what about writing? It's one of those day, unfortunately. Life interfers and although I like to think of myself as a writer, today I'm an anything-but kind of person. Do you ever have those kinds of days?

But back to Lyndhurst, which I'm programming into my GPS since it's been a couple of years since I've done the turkey thing. It's a day long celebration in the village. The main street is lined with craft stalls, food stalls, vegetable stalls, and folks selling everything imaginable. It snakes along one side street and on another you'll find some cool classic cars, their owners proudly buffing up hoods. And, there's always and Elvis impersonation going on, gracing the green sprawling lawns of a charming older house.

And speaking of turkeys...that's the food of the day from the church ladies with their hot turkey lunches, to the diners and stands with their turkey burgers. You won't go hungry, that's for sure.

I'm actually going in order to do a signing and hopefully, sell some books. It's not all shopportunities for me. I'll be joined by Vicki Delany and Violette Malan, plus a handful of local authors, in the back room of the public library. This is also part of the annual event.

So, if you're looking for a great drive out into the country and some good old-fashioned, small town charm...see you in Lyndhurst, Ontario.

I may have to put that time management onto another day in my agenda.

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012;
available now for pre-order

Wednesday, September 12, 2012



CBC radio recently produced a series of programs on the topic of fear. I didn’t hear all of them but I did hear one about dying. One of the speakers was a palliative care physician who had attended more than 1,000 dying patients. He said that almost everyone who spoke to him said that their first and most overwhelming fear was that they would suffer pain. Once they believed pain would be controlled the second most common fear was that after they died they would be forgotten.

Of course, in time, unless we are famous and even that is no guarantee, we all will be forgotten.

But the things we make may still be here and celebrated.

It occurred to me that subconsciously people create books, paintings or music in the hope that these works will survive and remind future generations that their creators existed even if their names are no longer known. Think of prehistoric wall paintings, of biblical texts and of treasured books and works of art. I have a crazy quilt with someone’s initials and the date, Feb. 1908, a record that the creator lived and was proud of her work.

Of course fear of being forgotten is not the primary reason for creativity but I suspect that, whether or not we acknowledge it, somewhere in our subconscious we feel that way.

This wish to have our creations remain may inhibit our efforts if we fear not being able to meet our own standards, having our work survive and not be as good as it could have been.This can stop the creative process as effectively as a roadblock stops a truck. What if it isn’t good enough? What if I can’t get the effect I want? The questions bubble up to challenge us.

The answer of course is as Franklin Roosevelt said in his inaugural speech, ‘all we have to fear is fear itself.’ Once we cope with that bugaboo we can get on with the job. Writing the story, the chapter, the book - the work that will outlast us.

A member of the Ladies Killing Circle, Joan Boswell co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit to Die, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and, Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2007 and 2007. The latest in the series, Cut to the Bone, will be published by Dundurn in November. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.

Monday, September 10, 2012



History, they say, is written by the winner. It’s also written differently depending on what side you happen to be on.

My newest book, More than Sorrow is set in Prince Edward County, Ontario, where I live. I moved here four years ago and one of the first things I noticed was the sign as you approach the main town, Picton (pop 4,000) proclaiming “A Proud Loyalist Town”. Highway 33 which runs through the County along the north shore of Lake Ontario to Kingston is named The Loyalist Highway, and signs depict a couple in period dress. What, thought I, is all this about? Then I began seeing flags – Union Jacks? Not quite. One of the stripes was missing.

In Canada we have a reputation of ignoring our history. I can’t really be counted among those, as I’ve always had a keen interest in history. I majored in Modern History at University. (Although my focus was Modern European History.) I knew something, vaguely, about the Loyalists who settled Ontario, but obviously not enough.

So I set about learning.

American history sometimes says that all but a few scoundrels and traitors were keen on independence in 1776. Not so fast. Apparently something like 30% of the residents of the colony thought it a bad idea. When all the smoke had cleared, there were in excess of 60,000 people who chose to leave the new United States.
They were refugees in every sense of the word. The British army and government remained loyal to those who’d been loyal to them, and provided transportation away from the States for anyone who wanted to leave. Many went back to England or Scotland, many to parts of North America that were not yet American, such as Florida, and many to the West Indies.

When I was in Turks and Caicos in the winter, we visited the remains of a loyalist plantation. Slaves who had supported the British side were given their freedom and a spot on a ship out. Many of them settled in Nova Scotia, where their descendants live today, and some went back to Africa. (If you are interested in the Black Loyalist story, try the superb Book Of Negros by Lawrence Hill. The Book of Negros was the list the British kept in New York of blacks wanting to flee.)A great many of these refugees came to Canada, over a thousand to what is now Prince Edward County.

What I hadn’t fully realized is that Ontario was almost totally unsettled at that time. Canada consisted of French Quebec and some settlements in Nova Scotia. A small township had been established in the Niagara area. And that was it. So when the new settlers came to this area there was nothing but wilderness. No roads, no towns. Nothing but dark, impenetrable forest.

Not even a lot of Native Canadians. There’s a big Mohawk Reserve near the County called Tyendenaga. It was settled by Loyalists also. The Indians fought on the side of the British in the Revolution (as they did in the War of 1812) and when their side lost, they lost their land and also became refugees.

Many of these refugees were not farmers: they might be townspeople, shopkeepers, newspapermen, tradesmen, maybe soldiers (a lot of German soldiers decided to stay in Canada rather than go back to Germany). As is the case with refugees down through time, most of them lost everything except the clothes they stood in when they fled their homes. The British government gave them transportation, and some supplies with which to begin. Imagine facing the true North American Wilderness, with a handful of seeds, a hand-made axe, maybe an ox to share with your neighbours, and no farming experience. The first order of business would have been to chop down a patch of ancient forest, to clear land and get wood to start building. They lived in tents or rough shacks the first years. In Ontario – in winter!

When I decided I wanted to write another standalone suspense novel,I knew I wanted it to be a modern gothic, a book with strands of the past and hidden secrets affecting people today. I am interested in how war affects lives, particularly the non-combatants, and quickly came up with the idea of a war correspondent injured in Afghanistan and a young female Afghan refugee. Refugee? Where had I heard that before?

Thus, in telling the story of Maggie Macgregor, a Loyalist refugee, I hoped to draw parallels between the refugee experience of Canada’s original settlers with those arriving today. And hopefully I have also had something to say about universal truths, particularly of women caught up in a fight that is not their own.

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most varied and prolific crime writers. Her popular Constable Molly Smith series (including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Among the Departed) have been optioned for TV by Brightlight Pictures. She also writes standalone novels of psychological suspense, as well as a light-hearted historical series, (Gold Digger, Gold Mountain), set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Visit Vicki at ,, and twitter: @vickidelany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (

Saturday, September 8, 2012


The Walker on the Cape
by Mike Martin
Baico Publishing

Look at the cover of The Walker on the Cape. An exquisite site, isn't it? That's Grand Bank, Newfoundland, the setting of this tale of RCMP, power and corruption. But it's mostly the story of life on the rock. Because it's the setting, the people, and the way of life in a small Newfoundland community that makes a difference in this first mystery by Ottawa writer Mike Martin. He writes about what he knows and that's his home province.

The discovery of the body of an old man on the trail overlooking Grand Bank shakes the community when it's found he was poisoned. Therein lies the tale of old secrets, power that corrupts, and lies that lead to ruined lives. At the heart of it all is RCMP Sergeant Winston Windflower, a First Nation officer who finds himself posted in far away Newfoundland. He's a really nice guy who's facing what sounds like his first major investigative challenge, which he handles with intelligence and understanding.

Along the way we meet Sheila Hillier who owns a local cafe, the officers and civilian staff at the small detachment, and many of the locals who form the fabric of the community. Sheila's a nice woman and seems a natural pairing for the bachelor sergeant, and this provides a peak into his private life. It's to be hoped that any future instalments give us a deeper understanding of what it means to be an aboriginal in the RCMP. We get a glimpse with his morning ritual of smudge bowl and medicine bag but knowing more about his past and his beliefs would help give depth to the man.

Martin has thought through his plot and provided a mixture of motives and suspects to keep it moving forward. And, he's done his homework when it comes to RCMP procedure. He has a lot of room to grow his characters which should make the second book (I'm assuming and hoping it's a series) well worth looking for.

Enjoy an armchair visit to Newfoundland!

Friday, September 7, 2012


Justice can prevail!

Scary times here in Canada. We think of ourselves as a peace-loving people and yet someone starts shooting a firearm at a PQ victory rally; a torso is found in a suitcase in Lake Ontario; another recent dismembering of a body in Montreal.

We're not insulated from violence even though we don't allow our citizens to be armed in public. We even had a gun registry at one time although as we see, that didn't prevent the recent tragedy. But I'm still in favour of it. We try to keep safe but the best we can do is to be non-violent persons ourselves.

It brings to mind a woman at a signing who said to me, she didn't like people who wrote about crime. In probing a bit, I realized she blamed crime writers for inciting people to commit crimes. Hmm. If only it were that simple. Eliminate crime novels and we'd have no more crime. I'd be willing to switch to writing romances if that were guaranteed to do the trick.

I wonder if she'd even read a crime novel. She seemed to have missed the part about justice being served in most of our works. The author definitely writes about a crime
but the focus is on the sleuth, the detective, the good guy who spends the entire novel trying to catch the perp and bring him to justice. I do acknowledge that's not always the case but it fits the majority of our novels.

This is what sets the crime novel apart from the headlines. This provides a reassurance that sanity can prevail even though it's sometimes hard to find it when viewing a TV newscast.

I think that woman should have thanked crime writers. Fiction is seldom more violent or stranger than reality. I, for one, like to have a healthy dose of justice in my life.

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012;
available now for pre-order

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


What's a crime?

As a mystery short story writer, I need to know what constitutes a crime and what doesn't. There's no point in writing a whodunit about something that used to be illegal but now is seen as a mere peccadillo.

As far as I know, killing someone is still frowned upon. And that's a relief because I like to concoct a good, solid murder. But occasionally I'd like to wander into other realms.

I used to enjoy reading mystery writers Emma Lathen and Sara Paretsky, safe in the knowledge that if their fictional financial institutions screwed their customers they would get a suitable legal comeuppance by the end of the book.

But 2008 changed all that. When the thugs on Wall Street caused a global economic recession did they suffer legal repercussions? Did they heck! Many of them went off to the Cayman Islands with huge compensation packages in their back pockets. Many more are still working in high finance and still using their considerable resources and clout to keep any form of banking regulations off the government books.

Compare that, as Graydon Carter in the latest issue of Vanity Fair does, with athletes who are suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. Society has come down like a ton of bricks on the heads of seven-time Tour de France cycling champ Lance Armstrong and former Major League pitcher Roger Clemens who have both been drummed out of their respective sports.

These two men should have gone into banking where they could have walked away with millions. Or alternatively, they should have gone into politics. Carter says, "One could argue that the lawmakers responsible for overseeing the runaway lending that led to the financial crisis are every bit as responsible as the banks. But not a single elected official has served time in jail or even suffered much of a setback, professionally." So financial and political mysteries are pretty much off the books, I guess.

How about lying? It used to be that being caught out in a lie could ruin a person and would almost certainly topple a political career. Think of Presidents Nixon and Clinton. Today though we have websites devoted to the number of lies candidates in the next American election can tell in a day. My particular favourite is Paul Ryan's whopper about the time he ran a marathon in under three hours. A little digging by Runners World Magazine discovered his time as four hours and a bit. Unfortunately, the discovery of this lie and all his others seems not to have affected Ryan's popularity one whit.

So I guess I'll just have to stick to murder - at least until that is no longer a crime.

Sue Pike has published a couple of dozen stories and won several awards including an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story. Her latest, Where the Snow Lay Dinted appeared in the January issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Sue and her husband and an opinionated Australian Shepherd named Cooper spend the winter months in Ottawa and the rest of the time at a mysterious cottage on the Rideau Lakes.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Looking For a Bookstore

In my quest to find markets to sell my new book, The Walker on the Cape, I found less than I imagined, much less. Or fewer, really. Bookstores that is. Oh yes I did find Chapters, Indigo, Coles and several minor variations thereof, but independent booksellers and their bookstores are disappearing far more quickly from the landscape of Canadian towns and cities than I imagined. In fact in many places they are non-existent. In my home town of St. John's for example there are absolutely zero independent book stores left.

To me that's shocking news. That a culturally vibrant city of about 150,000 people has no book store but Chapters/Indigo to buy their books. But actually that's not true. They have many more outlets to buy books including drug stores, Canadian Tire and several big box chains. And of course on line. It's hard to get exact numbers on where Canadians are buying their books but a lot of them are not bothering to line up anymore, they just go online and get their books from or Amazon.

The art of buying and selling books has changed dramatically in the past ten or fifteen years in Canada and around the world and according to the Canadian Booksellers Association about 400 independent bookstores have ceased operation in this period. Many people blame Chapters for this phenomenon and while they are part of the change process they are not necessarily the root cause of the problems.

I actually like most of what Chapters does, especially the re-creation of a library type atmosphere and the ability to browse through thousands of books. Some people even enjoy reading the magazines for free, just don't tell Heather. I don't like a lot of things they do such as only dealing with big publishing companies, charging for anything extra they do to promote the books and some really regressive return policies that will kill even more publishing houses in the short and long term. On balance having a nation-wide distribution system is good for everyone involved.

But I what I really love is the intimacy and warmth of independent and local bookstores. In Ottawa where I live we are fortunate to have a couple of still standing and successful independent bookstore models. Books on Beechwood has been around for over a decade and Jean Barton has achieved her goal of a "good neighbourhood bookstore." It is located on a busy corner and has a coffee shop conveniently located next store. A great place to spend an hour or two browsing and buying and then enjoying your books.

The other model is of course Collected Works on Wellington Street and as anyone who has been there knows it feels more like your living room than a bookstore. It has its own coffee and treats which is always inviting and it is strongly supportive or and supported by the local community. Alas we no longer have the great Prime Crime mystery bookstore but we have enough to show that there is still hope for book buyers and sellers in the Ottawa area.

When it comes right down to it Canada needs big and small bookstores and readers who will support both. Even readers who will only read electronic books or only buy books on-line. Diversity is good as long as we can continue to generate new readers for the products that are being created.

The bottom line is all of this is that it is still (thankfully) possible to write, buy and sell a book in Canada with or without the assistance of major Canadian or international corporations. And the fact that some of us still have a thriving independent book scene is a good and healthy sign for our community. I just wish every community in Canada was so fortunate.

Mike Martin was born in St. John's, Newfoundland and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a longtime freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of "Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine. The Walker on the Cape is his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Winston Windflower mystery series. It is available in Ottawa at Books on Beechwood and Collected Works, and at Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


by Brad Smith

Virgil Cain just can't seem to stay out of trouble! It's not his fault. How was he to know that a quiet afternoon of fishing on the Hudson River could result in his hooking a a big one -- a very heavy unmarked solid steel cylinder. And, it wasn't his fault that mentioning it at the marina would lead to his boat, with cylinder inside, would be impounded by the police. Or maybe it was stolen by a crooked cop. Whatever.

Virgil just wants his boat and trailer back. And that's where the trouble really starts. Because Virgil just doesn't know when to give up.

Along the way he crosses paths with an ex-con who also needs to find that cylinder to clear her name. That's right. A female ex-con who's working as a carpenter on a housing site. Throw in some not-so-savoury characters, some with lots of money and some just looking to make money, and it's another dark and humourous tale of what happens when a man just wants what's his. In this case, a boat and trailer.

He does know he should just back off, especially after the beating he gets that also breaks his arm. And he knows the girl just means more trouble. He knows this but, well, he's Virgil Cain. A guy with a good heart, a sense of justice, and maybe just too much moxy.

This is the second outing for Virgil Cain -- the first being Red Means Run which came out earlier this year. As with that book, I'm hooked on Brad Smith's writing style and his characters. Crow's Landing is a terrific read. And that says it all!