Friday, January 31, 2014


by J.E. Forman

Exotic settings with a touch of murder make a perfect escape for these frigid winter evenings. Really Dead by J.E. Forman, the first in the Ria Butler Mysteries, does just that. With a sleuth who's also a travel writer, the reader is assured of some tantalizing armchair travels.

Along with being set in the British Virgin Islands, it also takes place on the set of a reality TV show. Talk about a hot topic these days. Ria is persuaded by an old friend to visit the taping on location when a severed foot turns up as an unscripted part of the show. The premise of this show is to find the next manager for an exclusive resort that just happens to belong to the Butler clan (that's as in Ria's family) and it's being produced by her brother, James. Although reluctant to get involved, the fact that he may be involved in something far more dangerous than temperamental actors sends Ria packing. She's also aware she has to go it alone and cannot rely on investigative reporter Glenn Cooper to help, until their rocky relationship is defined. Ria arrives on the island of Soupsor and the reader is delivered into a behind-the-scenes world of a reality TV show in the making.

Ria quickly understands that James is mixed up in something far more complicated than the fact that he's sharing his villa with a bimbo. As the plot thickens, as more actors descend into the filming mix and Ria realizes she's attracting unwanted attention, she calls on Glenn for help and the reality becomes a deadly business.

Really Dead really delivers. There's humour, missing body parts, a producer everyone loves to hate, exotic locations, and a well-plotted mystery. That's not surprising since J.E. Forman sports a list of credits that are evident in the writing of Really Dead. She's been a television producer, a screenwriter and, under cover of a pseudonym, a romance novelist.

I wonder where Ria Butler is heading next?

Friday, January 24, 2014


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

It is hard to pinpoint any one influence. There have been so many over the years from the time when I was a young avid reader and wanted to write a mystery story just like Agatha Christie and Nancy Drew to today when a lengthy power outage I endured last winter is similar to the one Meg is putting up with in the book I am currently writing. Well written books, people I’ve met, places I’ve visited, my own experiences, newspaper stories, Canada’s great outdoors, my log cabin in the wilds of Quebec, family stories, other people’s stories and the list goes on. All have combined to influence my writing one way or the other. Of course I mustn’t forget my husband who has been my constant companion on this writing adventure.

2. What are you working on now?

For the 7th book in the Meg Harris series, I thought I would try something different, so Meg finds herself at the centre of a thriller. After her travels to BC, Meg is back at Three Deer Point. It is a week before Christmas and a major blizzard is blocking off her world. Eric is away and she’s alone in her rambling Victorian cottage with Adjidamo, the young boy Sergei rescued several winters ago, when a knock on the front door rings through the house…. And so it goes. I am having great fun writing it.

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

When you write in the first person, you can’t help but have some similarities with your protagonist. Although I have endeavoured to make Meg as much unlike me as possible, some of me does come through. We both have a love for nature and wild places and enjoy spending many hours exploring the hidden delights of a forest or paddling the many lakes and rivers that wend through the land.

I’m probably as big a chicken as she is, but she invariably overcomes her fears to do what she needs to do, like walking into a situation she knows is threatening. I don’t think I could. Mind you, like Meg I feel far more at ease on a particularly dark moonless night at my cottage when I have my big standard poodles by my side. Meg is more impulsive than I am and has a tendency to jump into situations without thinking them completely through, which can get her into trouble. I tend to sit back and wait to see what happens.

One of the aspects I have enjoyed in writing the series, is creating Meg and watching her grow and evolve from book to book. For me and hopefully for my readers, Meg has become a real person with her own unique quirks.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

I am not sure I could separate the two in my writing. While I usually start with a vague idea on a plot, often what drives the plot is Meg herself and her reaction to situations. Many times the story has taken a completely different turn from what I had envisioned because of Meg’s actions. So I would have to say I am both.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter

I guess I should hide my head in shame and admit I fly by the seat of my pants. As mentioned, I start with a vague idea of a story theme and plot, its setting and a couple of characters besides Meg and Eric. I tried outlining with my early books, but the end story bore no relationship to the outline, so I don’t bother anymore. I call it writing by juggling. As I progress through the story I throw many balls into the air and hope, more like pray, they land successfully. I’m always amazed when they do.

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

I strive for nothing more than my readers turn the last page of one of my books with the feeling of satisfaction of having finished a good read. I also hope that they leave knowing a little more about the wild place in Canada that I am writing about and the people that live there.

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

Ten years seems so far away. I can only look as far as the next book. I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent with Meg thus far, a good 15 years or more. As long as I continue to enjoy her company, I will keep writing about her. Thoughts of doing another series have crossed my mind, but I will only do that once I tire of Meg.

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

Gosh, I’ve no idea. I feel my life is like an open book and not very exciting. I like to start my mornings with a bracing cup of English Breakfast tea instead of the Canadian hot drink of choice, coffee. I love floating silently over the land in a hot air balloon or drifting over the mirror calm water of a lake in a canoe. My favourite writing spot is the screened-in porch at my cottage, where Meg’s world is only a millimetre thick screen away.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

I love to read, have done so since a child. Needless to say mysteries are and have always been my preferred read, but I enjoy good literary novels and have read most of the greats. My key requirement for a good book is a well constructed story with engaging characters and a setting that transports me to another place. I do have my favourite authors and the one that immediately comes to mind is Dorothy Dunnett. Though she wrote a mystery series, it is her historical series, The Lymond Chronicles, that have enthralled me. I think I have read the six hefty volumes of the chronicles a good 4 or more times and each time gain more insight into the complex character of Francis Lymond and his fascinating 16th century world.

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet

In Silver Totem of Shame, the murder of a young carver sends Meg Harris to Haida Gwaii, where she unravels a tangle of betrayal that reaches back to the 1880s

Described by the Ottawa Citizen as “one of the brightest new voices in the mystery business”, RJ Harlick, writes the acclaimed Meg Harris mystery series set in the wilds of Quebec. Like her heroine Meg Harris, RJ loves nothing better than to roam the forests surrounding her own wilderness cabin or paddle the endless lakes and rivers. The 4th book, Arctic Blue Death was a finalist in the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel. In the 6th book in the series, Silver Totem of Shame, to be released in June, Meg travels to Haida Gwaii, the mystical islands of the Haida situated on the edge of the Canada’s west coast. RJ is the current President of Crime Writers of Canada.

Friday, January 17, 2014


by John Moss
Anne McDermid and Associates Ltd.

This mystery is a good fit for readers who enjoy history and grammar along with the body count. The fourth in the Miranda Quin and David Morgan mysteries, The Dead Scholar immerses the two Toronto detectives in, as the title suggests, the death of a scholar, an ecclectic group of characters, all members of the Francis Bacon Society, and verbal sparring that's right up their alley.

The body is that of the elderly Professor Dieter Kurtz, found on Philosophers Walk in Toronto. It turns out that as the president of the Francis Bacon Society, Kurtz appears to be despised by the remaining twelve members and each had a motive to kill him. In an attempt to get to know the members better and hopefully find the killer, Quin and Morgan agree to attend a weekend getaway the Society has planned at a secluded island in the Muskokas. The sumptuous lodge and its surrounding buildings provide the perfect setting for the divining of old secrets, hidden loyalties, and death.

Since the life and writings of Francis Bacon are the focus of this group of suspects, it's natural that the author also devotes a fair amount of space to the historical aspect. The question for the detectives is, where does the motive lie? There are enough red herrings, intricacies and dialogue within the 579 pages of the novel to engage the reader during the quest for the killer.

The amount of research that went into The Dead Scholar is obviously enormous but it's evident that Peterborough author John Moss has a particular affinity to his topic and setting. He also takes much delight in word play, as do his two protagonists. It's a good read for these long, cold nights when a puzzle more than a thriller hits the spot.

The Dead Scholar was published principally as an e-book and is available on Kobo and Kindle. For more information see the author's website

Friday, January 10, 2014


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

There are many people who have been a part of shaping me as a writer. I think I have always admired great writers, like Dickens or Hemingway but that has been more adoration than trying to model myself after them. I am inspired by all writers who manage to actually finish and publish a book. In mystery writing I also like the classics but my series started as trying to capture the same sense of food, culture and scenery as Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti’s series. Newfoundland is not Venice but we’re trying!

2. What are you working on now?

I am completed Book 3 of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, Beneath the Surface. and it should be on the shelves this spring. So I will enjoy that book’s journey into the world. I am also thinking about Book 4 but I like those ideas to percolate, so I probably will not do any more major writing on that until later in the year. I think I may even write another book, not a Windflower, and maybe not even a mystery. But that too is still brewing on the back burner.

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

I think that consciously or not we all put pieces of ourselves into our protagonists. It is really hard not to. So the parts I will acknowledge are that Windflower hates WalMart. That’s not him, that’s me. But on the other characteristics I think that Sgt. Windflower is more like the man I would like to be, rather than the one I am. He is much better than me in many, many ways right now.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

My first book, The Walker on the Cape, was all about the plot. I wanted the story to be so good so that’s what I focused on. The second book, The Body on the T, was almost completely character driven. My third book, Beneath the Surface, is hopefully a combination of the two. It felt like a natural progression, and I hope my readers agree.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I am a true-blue pantser. I cannot imagine sitting in front of the computer and trying to plot out the whole story from beginning to end. To me, that sounds like too much work. The fun of writing, IMHO, is in watching the story unfold from your imagination, just like the reader does. The characters come. They tell the story. I write it down. I get to say where the story begins, and where it ends. At least for now.

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

I hope that people have fun when they read my books. If they learn a little more about Newfoundland or Windflower’s culture background, that’s a bonus. I want them to feel like they have visited my home island province, tasting the food, felt the strong wind in their hair. Maybe even imagined what it was like to just sit by the ocean and watch the waves.

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

I hope I’m still writing. That would be enough for me. And of course being famous and as rich as possible, lol.

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

This is often the toughest question for me to answer. Most of the people that know me well would be and are very surprised to know that I am a writer, and that I write mystery novels. I have always been a social policy, serious, save the world type of writer. I’m still trying to figure out how I got here.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

I read everything from the back of the cereal box to the latest fiction. Some mysteries, always some Canadian, and whatever anyone gives me as a gift.
Usually I have two or three books happening at once. Every year I make a book list, a trick somebody showed me years ago. On the list you have to put 4 new books, 4 books by authors you have read before, 4 biographies, 4 science books, and 4 ‘classics’. That at least ensures I get a range of books throughout the year.

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet (140 characters or less)

Beneath the Surface is about honour and betrayal. It's about crime and corruption. About fish, fog and freedom. A taste of life in Nfld.

Mike Martin is the author of the Windflower Mystery Series, set in small communities on the east coast of Canada. His latest book, The Body on the T, is now available as an e-book on and

Friday, January 3, 2014


by Gloria Ferris

Every now and then it's good to cleanse the palette with a fun, zany mystery! You know the kind, where you end up snickering every couple of pages or else you're thinking, 'oh boy, why did she do THAT?', which is the equivalent of closing your eyes if watching a movie. Corpse Flower had just such an effect on me.

The plot is fairly common, who killed the town employee at the cemetery? Or was it murder? The opening paragraph sets the tone for what's to come. By the end, there are two more murders; some very creative distribution and usages for marijuana; not one but two slightly erotic exotic plants that are about to require cross-pollination and only our intrepid main character, Bliss Moonbeam Cornwall can make sure it happens; and the possibility of romance for Bliss, who is still trying to get even and get a fair settlement out of her ex-husband, the mayor.

If it sounds like a lot going on, it is but it all fits and makes sense. Along the way there are some very zany characters, like Bliss's cousin, the agoraphobic Dougal; his hystrionic ex-wife Glory; the cute, naive neighour, Rae turning tricks at the trailer park; and...sorry, they are just too unique to describe.

Sounds like it would be tricky, working this all into a mystery novel. Not every writer can write for laughs and make it work.
It takes great skill to do both. Enter Gloria Ferris, whose first novel, Cheat the Hangman won the 2012 Bony Blithe Award. And, Corpse Flower won the Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award in 2010 from Crime Writers of Canada.

Read! Enjoy! And go ahead, laugh out loud when necessary!