Monday, December 30, 2013



This is the week we say goodbye to the old year and hello to another year of what I hope will be a successful writing year for you. Looking back, I'd say it's been a pretty amazing year for Canadian mystery authors, which will be very apparent when the Arthur Ellis Awards from Crime Writers of Canada roll around.

I feel blessed to have be a part of this scene and also want to thanks so many of you for providing me with hours and hours of wonderful reading. Hopefully, many of you received some new Canadian mystery reads under the tree this Christmas.

I'm taking yet another week off but will jump right into this writing life next week, working on a new book and also, a new blog. Another review. Finally, you might say.

So, best wishes for a New Year filled with much happiness, many delights, and mucho sales!


Saturday, December 21, 2013


Wishing you a Merry Mystery!

I can't believe it's that time of year already but what a perfect day to be writing this blog. It's snowing (again!) and I'm not setting foot out this door. I decided not to post the usual mystery review but instead, go for a holiday greeting.

It's been a very busy year in mystery land and I want to thank everyone from the readers of my series to the readers of this blogsite and most especially, to all the wonderful colleagues who write such marvelous mystery and crime books. Everyone has been so eager to contribute to Mystery Maven Canada and all are helping to spread the word.

I know the word is out -- that Canadian mystery writers are a truly criminous group and their books are great reads!

So, to all of you amazing people, my very best wishes for a wonderful holiday season, whatever you may call it. For me it's, Merry Christmas! Here's hoping it will be a season of many delights.


Friday, December 13, 2013


1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?

From MJ: Three big influences: first, my writing group, now the Ladies Killing Circle. From them I learned that you have to take advice and fix your work. Second, the authors I enjoyed reading, specifically those who wrote mysteries with humour. They taught me that it could be done and done with style. Third, Sue Grafton, who once gave a very inspiring talk to unpublished writers. She said many things, but she told us how long it took her to get published and how she kept at it although it took seven years for her to sell her first book!  As I’d been writing for seven years, this was welcome news.

From Victoria:  MJ is definitely my biggest influence, everything she has learned on her own journey, she passed on to me, patiently, I might add.  My second biggest influence would have to be Janet Evanovich and her way of creating deliciously flawed characters.

2. What are you working on now?

We are working on The Wolfe Widow, the third in the book collector mystery series. The Rex Stout books and the wonderful characters of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin will work their way into the story. Sure is fun to reread all these classics for research. These are books that stand the test of time.

3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you?  If at all?   

From Vic:  I would happily wander the isles of a Flea Market any day of the week, just like Jordan. I’m a vintage fashion lover.  The thrill of finding something great is something Jordan and I could bond over definitely.

From MJ: I think I’d love to have Jordan’s job, maybe not her boss though. Like Jordan, I enjoy the lure of the Golden Age of Detection. Good thing, because we are rereading them all.

For the record, neither Victoria nor I own a set of lock picks.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?  

We are fascinated by characters and probably read for character too.  However, we value plot and work hard to make sure that works. But if the characters don’t ‘sing’, for us there’s no music in the book.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?   

We’re very pansty, but we know we should be more plotsy.  With two people writing a book, it’s extremely hard to keep it together if you don’t both see it going in the same direction. In fact, sometimes … but that’s a story for another day.

6. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

That there is much joy in the classics of the mystery tradition and that the relationships with family and friends are actually the most interesting part of a book. And finally, that humour is always worthwhile.

7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?

Besides having more naps?  Well, MJ would like to try her hand at a play and a PI novel and has a few books left in her other series that need to be written. Vic would love to keep on painting the night away but wouldn’t mind dabbling in a screen play or novel of her own.

8. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

Vic watches Coronation Street...don’t judge her!
MJ thinks that with all this social media, people know she knits, loves dogs and reads in bed.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

Oddly enough, mysteries. We read a lot of them!  We like all types of mysteries from those dark Scandinavians to funny cozies. We read tons of Canadians and, of course, we love all our friends’ books. We have to be careful not to read books that will influence our current project too much.  

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet.
Stolen Sayers first editions, a body in the backyard, romance in the air: Jordan Bingham seeks answers and finds danger. Do you smell fire?

That shadowy figure known as Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between the always very funny and creative artist, photographer and short story author, Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, award-winning author of three mystery series and two dozen short stories. Their first book in the series, The Christie Curse, has received excellent reviews and the second, The Sayers Swindle, will hit the shelves in December 2013. They are hard at work on the third installment: The Wolfe Widow (September 2014) and haven’t killed each other yet.
You can keep up with their characters on the thirtieth of the month over at and their culinary adventures at or by signing up for their newsletter at or

Friday, December 6, 2013


by Phyllis Smallman
Touch Wood Editions

This is something new for Phyllis Smallman. A gripping mystery that's not part of the Sherri Travis series. For one thing, Long Gone Man has moved from one hot sunny vacation spot to the area sometimes aptly called, the Caribbean of Canada, the B.C. coast. Although, we're not really on the coast but rather on an island,Glenphiddie it's called, possibly part of the beautiful Gulf Islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island. She knows this area well because it's her home, half of the year.

Enough for the geography. What really stands out is the main character, the singer as she's referred to at first. But we know it's a Singer Brown Mystery, so that's her name. We know little about her to begin with, except that she has a past and that's what's driving her to a confrontation and her future. Early on, after a heart-stopping near-plunge over a steep embankment on a foggy night, the singer finds her way to a cabin and finds a woman with a gun and a dead body. Johnny Vibes, the man she'd come for; her goal, revenge.

From there the story unfolds, a tale of a rock band from the seventies when she was, for a short time, the lead singer for the group. The story is sad but explains how Singer's life degenerated into that of a stalker, someone always on the move, and even for a while, an addict. When the remains of a young man who'd been shot decades ago out on a Nevada desert are uncovered, Singer pursues the members of the band, who now all live within walking distance of each other on this island. She's searching for the truth and something that was stolen so long ago. Everyone had a motive for this new murder and Singer is certain it's tied into the old one.

It's a riveting tale of betrayal, greed, and jealousy. What better ingredients for a murder?

Smallman writes strong women and she writes them really well. Sherri Travis, whom we've gotten to know and root for over five novels, is such a woman. And Singer Brown is someone to be reckoned with. She's determined and daring, not always a good thing, but she's also clever and that's what takes this past a gothic sensibility. Because many times I had the urge to call out to Singer, telling her to back off and lie low. Just shows that I was really drawn into the story. It's no wonder. Smallman is an award-winning writer and one worth reading.