Friday, June 27, 2014


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

There has been a multiplicity of influences, rather than one writer or person above all. I was taught by some wonderfully talented and dedicated women, who influenced me with both their encouragement and constructive criticism. I was raised in a home full of books of all genres, from literary to popular fiction, including all the great writers of the Golden Age of mystery writing in Britain, and that master of setting and atmosphere, the French mystery writer, Georges Simenon. And here I am now, writing mysteries myself!

2. What are you working on now?

I am somewhere around the middle of the fourth book in the Moretti and Falla mystery series, set on the Channel Island of Guernsey, where I used to live. Its working title is Death Under Glass. I have the idea for the fifth tucked away in the back pocket of my mind, not to be thought about yet. The third in the series, Blood Will Out, comes out in September 2014.

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

I have two main protagonists, one male, Detective Inspector Ed Moretti; and one female, his partner, Detective Sergeant Liz Falla, and I like to think both characters have something of me in them. I suspect, actually, that my taste in music, movies and books is closer to Ed’s than to Liz’s! But Liz is the kind of young woman I admire very much and hope I would have been, if I had been born into her generation.

4. Are you character or plot driven?

Character, character, character. Although I usually have an idea in my mind for the book, it floats around in there until the characters nail it down for me.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

The answer to this is very much linked to the fourth question. I had written in many genres before starting to write mysteries, and it is quite fascinating to me how the characters in the mystery genre often provide twists and turns I never thought of when I started – almost as if they had minds of their own. Which, of course, they have! So, yes, I am a pantser.

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

That they had a good time – such a strange thing to say about murder! – and that they were taken into the world of my characters with all its complications. Also, that they feel the attraction of my island setting: atmosphere in my mysteries is important to me.

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

Ah, the tempting fate question! Still writing about my beautiful island, perhaps writing another series, perhaps writing a historical mystery. I’d love to do that. But always writing.

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

This is a tough question to answer. I have given it some thought, and this is what I came up with, which surprised me also: I was an actress, I’m married to an actor, I love performing, I love reading from my books to an audience – but essentially, I am a loner. Which is why, I guess, writing is a good career choice!

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

Mysteries of all kinds, from cozies to noir. Over the past few years I have been rereading some of the classics I read as a child and teenager – Dickens, Trollope and so on – and, to keep my little grey cells working and active, I have a subscription to the Times Literary Supplement. Oh how I enjoy all that academic infighting on the letters page!

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

Witches, theatrical vampires, family secrets impede Moretti’s investigation into a hermit’s suicide. Or is it murder? And if murder - why?

Jill Downie was born in Guyana, lived in England, Guernsey in the Channel Islands, studied in Paris, before settling in Canada. She is the author of plays, short stories, historical fiction, biographies, and currently writes the Guernsey-based mystery series, published by Dundurn, starring Detective Inspector Ed Moretti and his partner, Detective Sergeant Liz Falla. The first, Daggers and Men’s Smiles appeared in 2011, the second, A Grave Waiting, in 2012, and the third, Blood Will Out, appears in September, 2014. She lives in Ancaster, with her actor husband Ian.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Taking time to highlight some of the recently released mysteries by Canadian crime writers! As always, this is just a sample of what’s come out in the past few months. The way I choose them is if I hear about them, either from the authors themselves or their publishers. If you’re not on this list, please keep in touch at

So, starting locally, R.J.(Robin)Harlick has recently launched the sixth Meg Harris mystery, Silver Totem of Shame (see my review from June 6th), this one set on the West Coast, mainly on the fascinating islands of Haida Guaii. Launching with Robin was Vicki Delany, whose seventh Const. Molly Smith mystery is set in the equally compelling Banff area and includes a stay in the Banff Springs Hotel. It’s called Under Cold Stone.

Vicki had a second book she was launching at the same event, Juba Good, part of the Rapid Reads line and featuring RCMP officer Ray Robertson, on duty in South Sudan.

Mike Martin
has a third book in his RCMP Sgt. Windflower series set in Newfoundland, Beneath the Surface.

Deryn Collier has a second book out with coroner Bern Fortin, set in the Kootenay region of B.C., Open Secret.

The Quin and Morgan Mysteries by John Moss, continue with this latest addition, Blood Wine. It’s a police procedural set in Toronto.

And, Suzanne Kingsmill has a third book in the Cordi O’Callaghan series, Dying for Murder, just out.

As does Janet Bolin with Night of the Living Thread being the fourth in her Threadville Mysteries.

Earlier this year, Something Fishy was added to the Shores mystery series, by Hilary MacLeod. That's the title, folks!

There’s a lot of reading in this list, especially if you haven’t yet gotten to this fine line-up. But you’d better hurry and get started because there’s a lot more coming out in the next few months!

In August, Erika Chase has the fourth book in her Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries out, Book Fair and Foul; and Sam Wiebe’s first mystery, Last of the Independents, which won the 2012 Unhanged Arthur Award from Crime Writers of Canada, will be on the shelves.

Other titles to watch for: The Wolfe Widow by Victoria Abbott (aka Mary Jane Maffini and Victoria Maffini); from Cathy Ace, Cait Morgan Mystery #4, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair; Blood Will Out by Jill Downie; None So Blind by Barbara Fradkin; Put on the Armour of Light by Catherine MacDonald; Roses for a Diva by Rick Blechta; and, Thin Ice by Nick Wilkshire.

There is no editorial commentary tied to their order of appearance in this blog. I've listed authors and title by their publication dates.

For a more complete listing, check out the Crime Writers of Canada website at

Friday, June 13, 2014


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

Three authors come to mind: Agatha Christie, Robert B. Parker, and Fannie Flagg. Christie because her plot structures are exquisite, Parker because I like his spare writing style and humour, and Flagg because she’s such a good storyteller. There are elements of their writing common to mine, and others to which I aspire.

2. What are you working on now?

I’m writing a contemporary romance for the first time. It’s set in Toronto, and is called The Dating Do-Over. It’s about Viv Nowack, a thirty-one-year-old woman who’s been dumped by her boyfriend of six years on Valentine’s Day. She’s had the worst streak of luck with men ‒ all her life, actually ‒ and her two best friends decide they’re going to vet her boyfriends from now on. I’m considering turning it into a trilogy.

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

Viv is nothing like me, but Anna Nolan, the heroine of my mystery series, does have certain similarities. Like Anna, I was an administrative assistant working for an academic department in a Calgary university while commuting to work from a small town. Unlike Anna, my actor-husband is still alive.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

Both, I’d say. I start with a plot idea, but the characters often take me in directions I didn’t expect. You can get by without a whole lot happening in your story, but if the characters aren’t well-developed, forget it.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Definitely a pantser. I know how the story starts and how it’s going to end, but that huge, gaping section in the middle scares me.

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

I read for entertainment and I write for entertainment. If my readers have a laugh along the way and maybe a look at life from a different point of view, that’s great.

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

I started, briefly, as a self-published author before I signed with a vanity e-publisher. I created my own publishing company and went back to self-publishing in 2014. I would like to be a hybrid author ten years from now, meaning that some of my books would be published by a traditional publisher, while others would be self-published. Print books are still outselling e-books and audio books, and it’s very difficult to get paperbacks into brick and mortar bookstores, libraries, and big box stores without going through traditional publishers. On the other hand, I don’t like relinquishing control of things like cover design and promotion, and the ability to track sales on a daily basis is habit-forming. But ten years from now, the publishing business is going to look a whole lot different, so we’ll see.

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

I’m not driven to write. As a matter of fact, I didn’t begin writing until six years ago. Never even kept a journal. However, I’ve never found another profession that I enjoy half so much.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

Mysteries are my go-to choice, although I also enjoy autobiographies, chick lit, some romances, and the classics. Nancy Drew was the first series I remember reading as a child, with Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie not far behind.

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

Anna’s ex-husband just showed up again‒dead! Was he murdered by 1 of the 3 women he was romancing on a movie set? Anna may die finding out.

Cathy Spencer's first mystery novel, Framed for Murder, just won the Bloody Words Light Mystery Award, the Bony Blithe at the Bloody Words Mystery Conference held in Toronto, on June 7th.

Friday, June 6, 2014


by R.J. Harlick

Some books you read because they're familiar and comforting. You know the setting, it could even be your own hometown, or you know the type, maybe a police procedural and all that implies or on the other hand, a traditional puzzle. But sometimes it's good to read a book that transports you to a new setting, a new culture even. That's the type of book you get with Silver Totem of Shame.

If you've read the first four books in the Meg Harris Mystery series, you'll already be familiar with the Aboriginal backdrop and the fact that Meg, not of First Nations' heritage, is deeply immersed in this society, living out in Western Quebec near the Migiskan Reserve. But this time, Harlick transports Meg and her new husband, Eric Odjek, former Algonquin tribal chief, to the West Coast where they both are introduced to the Haida culture. It's a fascinating look at this proud Matriarchal society and the awesome landscape of Haida Gwaii.

The story of the death of a young Haida man just starting out in the tradition of a carver, draws the reader into this culture where tradition is dominant and some stories may not be for sharing. Meg and Eric are visiting Vancouver. It's a holiday for her; business for him; a delayed honeymoon for both. When the murdered carver turns out to be Eric's nephew, the adopted son of his estranged sister, the recent past blurs with that of the ancient peoples in a tale of greed and revenge. As they follow the trail through the wilds to the remains of the long-gone village, the killer is finally revealed in a standoff between the Matriarch and those would wish to take over.

This is Harlick at her best! She manages to immerse the reader in the fascinating culture of this coastal tribe and to reflect a current day where old traditions meld with the modern world. Her descriptions of the islands of Haida Gwaii, the lush forest growth, the awesome coastline of steep cliffs and sheltered inlets, and the relentless sea truly transport the reader to this land. The fact that she's done an immense amount of research and in fact, traveled around Haida Gwaii are readily apparent. This all adds to the complex mystery and the inevitable outcome.